Put Together Music
Shawn Amos is the son of Wally Amos founder of the Famous Amos chocolate chip cookie brand and singer Shirlee Ellis professionally known as Shirlee May. Born in New York City Amos returned and attended film school at New York University. After reading Peter Guralnick’s book “Feel Like Going Home” he traveled the south and fell in love with the music of Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Junior Wells. He released his debut recording “In Between” in 2002. He became an A & R executive at Rhino Entertainment; and Vice President of A & R at Shout! Factory where he specialized in DVD and audio titles for legacy artists. While working with Quincy Jones and Solomon Burke he helped produce some Grammy nominated recordings.
Amos’ estranged mother was a nightclub singer who committed suicide in 2003. In 2005 Amos conceived, wrote and produced a tribute album “Thank You Shirl-ee May”. In 2011 he followed up with a third album “Harlem”. Amos has since become an ordained minister with The Universal Life Church. He released his first album as a blues preacher in 2014 and followed up 2015’s “The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You”. His last full length recording was 2018’s “Breaks It Down”. Last year he released two EP’s called “Kitchen Table Blues” Vol. 1 & 2.
A native of Los Angeles The Reverend Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood are a collaboration between some old friends. The Brotherhood includes Amos, harmonica and vocals; Chris “Doctor” Roberts, guitar; Christopher Thomas, bass; and Brady Blade, drums. They embolden Amos and provide both musical and spiritual support as the Brotherhood will tour through 2020 and are “in” for the long haul. Blade adds “Brotherhood, to me, means togetherness, being able to interact with each other in a more personal way… to help drive the music. Because the tension must be there. Also, the happiness must be there. For all of us, the happiness has definitely come out on this record.”
The backing vocalists are referred to as The Sisterhood and they include Piper Amos, Sharlotte Gibson, Ruthie Foster and Kenya Hathaway. The music was written by Roberts and Amos with help from Thomas and Tim Ganard; while the lyrics are all Amos. The album is produced by James Saez and recorded at the Blue Rock Studios in Wimberley, Texas.
The opening track “Stranger Than Today” references Marion Walter Jacobs and his birthplace Marksville Parish, Louisiana. “Little” Walter was the first to amplify the harmonica and he forever changed the sound of the blues. Ben Peeler is added on lap and pedal steel guitar. Amos’ poignant vocal and sweet harmonica are perfect. Blade hammers out the beats while Roberts takes his guitar solo.
“Troubled Man” is a vocal duet with Amos and Ruthie Foster, currently receiving airplay the song includes the lyric “People believe what they wanna believe”. “Her Letter” is another well written song “something about saying goodbye…now I don’t normally seem to remember, the last drink that I should reconsider, but when I woke up this morning, I was waiting for her letter to dry”.
The Sisterhood are featured on “Counting Down The Days” a blues stomp with some great production and vocal from Amos; on the rockin’ “Hold Back” while Amos’ sings “I got so many secrets I can’t keep track”; and on “The Job is Never Done”.
On “The Pity And The Pain” Matt Hubbard is added on keyboards; Amos’ vocal is in a slightly higher register and the song reminds me of The Band. On this song and on the smoky “Albion Blues” the harmony vocalist is Hathaway, while the smoke is provided by Roberts on guitar, Amos’ harmonica, and Hubbard’s piano.
Two of my favorites close out this fine album. The rock and rolling “27 Dollars” once again features Amos’ higher pitched vocal; and the New Orleans styled “Keep The Faith, Have Some Fun” featuring horn players Jamelle Adisa and Mike Cottone, trumpet; Mark Bolin, sousaphone; Matthew Demerritt, tenor sax; Dan Weinstein, trombone; Ganard, bass drum; Amos’ harmonica; and the band singing on the chorus.
This is a new and infectious sound from The Reverend Shawn Amos and The Brotherhood. Kudos to everyone involved.