An Exclusive interview with the Reverend Shawn Amos
An Exclusive interview with The Reverend Shawn Amos! by Richard Lhommedieu on Mixcloud
Debut full-length blues album features guest appearances by Grammy winners Blind Boys of Alabama and 2x Grammy nominated Mindi Abair, who also makes debut as album producer.
Certified pure blues singer, harmonica player, songwriter and producer, The Reverend Shawn Amos is on a mission to spread his glorious secular gospel to all. The son of chocolate chip cookie magnate Wally “Famous” Amos and night club singer Shirl-ee May Ellis, he is dedicated to continuing, extending and spreading the tradition of the blues with unsurpassed fervor and emotional expression. Born in New York City, raised up on the gritty Sunset Strip in the seventies and preceding his performing career with many successful musical ventures, Amos breaks nearly every cliché with his talent and unstoppable drive. The results are in evidence on his four previous releases beginning with In Between (2002) and culminating to date with the sizzling and embraceable The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You. It is required listening for navigating the vicissitudes, meeting the challenges and enjoying the spoils of modern living. The album marks the producing debut of 2x Grammy nominee, Mindi Abair.
Ten bone-deep originals and two well-chosen covers contain the combined exceptional ensemble skills of Chris “Doctor” Roberts (guitars), Brady Blade (drums, percussion), Chris Thomas (bass), Anthony Marinelli, Hassell Teekell (keyboards), Mindi Abair (saxophones, producer), Lewis Smith (trumpet), Forever Jones (backing vocals) and Nick Lane (horn arrangements). In addition, guest artists The Blind Boys of Alabama and Missy Andersen lend their illustrious presence to two tracks. “Days of Depression,” with the lauded gospel group adding considerable gravitas, harkens back to the prewar South. Grinding slowly and inexorably forward on a haunting, hypnotic work song guitar riff, it has Amos intoning the poetic lyrics “In my days of depression I could take my hands off the wheel, let me go where the wind blows, let me go with the Lord.” “Brand New Man,” conversely, “tears the roof off the sucka” with a stomping R&B groove to lift listeners right out of their seats. Amos unleashes his soul power while making his carnal desires clear with “Baby gonna make me a brand new man” as a profane, repeating mantra dynamically charged with the stop-time aside “I’m feeling lonely, I’m feeling hungry, you got me wanting you”, as Roberts shreds on his axe. The throbbing “Boogie” would be lascivious merely with the music, though Amos leaves no doubt as to his desires with the invitation “C’mon and boogie (2x), I ain’t got all night, keep this thing locked tight” while the sensuous Missy Andersen urgently concurs “C’mon and boogie (2x), I ain’t got too long, babe, I’ve done something wrong” and Amos blows out the reeds on his harp.
He turns from his basic primal needs to a higher calling with the classic Memphis soul of “Brothers’ Keeper.” It could not be more timely as he confides “I’m gonna lead with my heart, open my hand from the start, and be my brothers’ keeper, be my brothers’ keeper,” his sinewy vocals moving easily from a bluesy growl to a soaring falsetto. The stone funk of “You’re Gonna Miss Me (When I Get Home)” allows Amos to drip malevolence by calling out his unfaithful lover with “I work all damn day and night for you, you take all of my money, choke them credit cards blue. I’m gonna take my good thing back, you gonna feel a cold chill at night in the sack,” his harp wailing in sympathy. A sprightly two-beat cover of Minnie Lawler’s “Joliet Bound” affords Roberts the opportunity to flaunt his impressive six-string skills as he weaves expressive blues lines around Amos relating with appropriate dread his tale of woe regarding the infamous Illinois prison.
The dramatic, hook-heavy R&B of “Will You Be Mine” is a vocal and musical show-stopper with Amos passionately extolling with all his might “You’ve been running with the wrong man, let me get you on the right plan. And we’ll go driving, away from here” in a classic plea for starting over and seeking redemption intensified by his lyrical harp lines. He struts, swaggers and menaces on “Outlaw” as Lucifer’s disciple with lyrics like “The good Lord may be your savior, but never was no friend of mine (2x). I preach the good book of ‘El Paso,’ keep your boots and your pistol shined” as Roberts fires off a distorted solo. The sweet-singing Mindi Abair duets in harmony with Amos on the Jimmy Reed classic “Bright Lights Big City” as the band lightens the mood by loping appealingly in a lilting boogie shuffle.
Album producer, Mindi Abair, co-wrote the swinging shuffle “Hollywood Blues” as a snarling look at life in “Tinsel Town.” Amos accuses with the scalding, uncensored street lyrics of “These folks got gold at their fingertips, while I’m in my piece of shit, driving down the Sunset Strip” and Abair honks and squeals with venom on her alto sax. “Put Together” is a sexy, funky tribute to a modern day “femme fatale,” Amos praising and pleading “…your do rag, honey you’re all right. Baby, you’re put together. I just wanna come home, baby, can you let me come home? I won’t stay too long if you can let me get it” and Roberts wringing prurient licks from his guitar. Amos opts to end his set with the tender soul ballad “The Last Day I’m Loving You”, though he spikes it with a kicker heard in the capper “You got the mojo and the moves to make it hard, to keep my right mind in front and keep me strong. You got them ten dollar words you know how to use, but this is the last day I’m loving you.”
As opposed to “saving” souls, the temporal and spirit-nourishing blues of the “right” Reverend will provide “soul” as well as love to one and all. Romantic love and lust, along with vengeance may be standard blues fare. However, in the hands, heart and head of Shawn Amos they become the seeds for sowing and reaping life lessons as well as unqualified entertainment of the highest order. The good Rev may promote what some call the “devil’s music,” but the figurative “religious” experience is a God send.
Dave Rubin, KBA recipient in Journalism
The Reverend Shawn Amos, son of Wally Amos (Famous Amos cookie brand), attributes his diverse background to growing up in the colorful Hollywood landscape.
Prior to becoming a blues preacher — and ordained minister with the Universal Life Church — Amos was an A&R executive at Rhino Entertainment and vice president of A&R at Shout! Factory, where he produced and recorded multiple Grammy-nominated projects. He produced broadcast, DVD and audio titles for legacy artists ranging from Heart to Quincy Jones, for whom Amos later ran the Listen Up Foundation. Throughout Amos’ childhood and adulthood, his mother suffered from schizoaffective disorder and ultimately committed suicide in 2003. The trauma of the event and his subsequent discovery of her early singing career were the inspiration behind his 2005 album release, Thank You Shirl-ee May. Amos has released five albums of music, including his 2014 release, “The Reverend Shawn Amos Tells It,” a collection of blues originals and covers that received much acclaim from the blues & roots world, and the sophomore blues album The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You.
Amos discovered blues through Peter Guralnick’s Feel Like Going Home trilogy. He was at NYU film school and spent his summers driving south exploring the places in Peter’s book. “I fell in love with the stories and history, then I got hooked on the music. Howlin’ Wolf was first, Willie Dixon followed, then Junior Wells, Muddy Waters. It was virtually all I played during my college career,” says Amos. “My entire DNA is wrapped up in these songs. They have given me a sense of self and a home I never had.”
When not playing blues clubs, Amos hosts a weekly web series, Kitchen Table Blues. He is also known for his expertise in brand marketing, having founded vanguard content marketing agency, Freshwire (sold to ad giant, Omnicom in 2012). Amos speaks to the need for content mindfulness and authenticity in the 24/7 real-time race for relevancy. As an ongoing tribute to his mother, he also serves as Vice Chair of the board of directors of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services.
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