12 January 2011
Sam Amidon Covers Neil Young
MOJO's newest issue is all about maestro Neil Young, and rightfully so - the heavily influential Harvest is 40 years old. The issue is accompanied by Harvest revisited; a cover album featuring Doug Paisley, Kelley Stoltz, Danny And The Champions Of The World, Jane Weaver, Phosphorescent, Villages, Neville Skelly, Smoke Fairies, Chip Taylor - and our very own Sam Amidon.
Sam takes on the harrowing 'The Needle and the Damage Done'; a portrait of musicians descending into heroin addiction. On Young's handwritten liner notes he has this to say about the song: 'I am not a preacher, but drugs killed a lot of great men.'
Sam on Neil Young:
'It took me a long time to understand Neil Young because since I was from Vermont and surrounded by acoustic guitar strummers and jam bands, I associated Neil Young too much with that to understand him. Also I don't think I really knew the difference between "Neil Young" and "Neil Diamond." Also I was kind of a snob and when I was a teenager I only liked free jazz and obscure banjoplayer recordings, and Jimi Hendrix. But then I met some friends named Jake and Zach who were also into free jazz, but at the same time, they loved Neil Young. And boom, I heard him in a new way. And since then I have learned that he can make you cry with his voice and words, and also that he can generate Pure Melodies with his guitar soloing. All instrumentalists aspire to the ability to make pure melodies that go deeper than your fingers. Only a few get there: Bonnie Raitt on slide guitar, Don Cherry on trumpet, and Neil Young on electric guitar.'
So, now the only question that remains is this: Which Sam song should Mr. Young cover?
You can hear a sneak peak of the cover album below.
What the press says
Sam Amidon sees no difference between a 19th-century folk ballad and a 21st-century avant-garde instrumental suite. In bridging the very old and the very new... he has managed to meld the rural and the urban, the organic and the synthetic, the oral tradition and the written score
“The combination of artists on this album deliver such an intense experience and I can’t help but be fascinated by it all. I’m quite in awe to be honest, and I use such words very sparingly when I talk about music. This is certainly his best work to date.”
Amidon - with Sigurdsson, Muhly, multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily and on Beth Orton - brings a heightened reality and off-register colour to these black-and-white broadsides.
[These performances] are passively beautiful, combed-over, thought-out, and then re-remembered fondly, wistfully... Yet that passivity is the key to the earnest openness that makes Amidon’s new album transcend.
I’ll keep it short, because the more time you spend reading this, the less time you have to listen to Sam Amidon’s new album, I See The Sign, and it would really be a shame if you didn’t spend the next occasion you find yourself alone in the company of these friendly, forgiving, firelit songs.
Two and a Half Questions with Sam Amidon
Sam Amidon’s music is bigger and better than any retrospective reworkings. For this is contemporary music, providing an outlet for forgotten sounds and breathing oxygen into new creations.
I See the Sign ... his interpretations are so singular that it stops mattering how (or if) these songs existed before—all that matters is how they exist now.
...Amidon’s instincts and talents as a musical conservationist, interpreter, and reanimator are to be wholly trusted and cherished.
“this IS an epochal masterpiece – placing it side by side with the finest albums of the last four decades”
As with ‘All Is Well’, there are arrangements here that take your breath away…....this album is another complete success for the most interesting and promising folk musician in North America today
...a very pleasant modern folk album filled with interpretations of older public domain standards.
All Is Well a very forward-thinking album, despite its reliance on traditional tunes. With his team of musicians working so closely together, Amidon doesn't just update the old world to the new, but finds the roots of the new world in the old.
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