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Press Reviews for I See The Sign

Sam Amidon is an extraordinary artist, young folky and cool, heralding the folk revival on a scale not encountered before. Folk has never before been so accessible and acceptable to the masses; artists are now embraced in rock venues and not merely sectioned away in folk clubs and festivals. Sam Amidon is 28 years old, born in Vermont to folk musicians Peter and Mary Alice Amidon. I was lucky enough to attend the recent Owen Pallett gig at the Union Chapel in London, and for me the highlight of the night was the second support act, namely Samamidon (his stage name) and Nico Muhly. At the end of their set the crowd rose in almost unison to visit the merchandise stand to acquire some of Sam's quirky folk music. I managed to get my hands on 'All Is Well', Sam's second album released in 2008, a collection of re-arranged traditional folk song, mostly Appalachian. The album is simple, stripped back and really exposes the raw talents of Sam Amidon, most notably his husky and quite beautiful voice.

His new album, 'I See the Sign' (2010), is a far more lavish affair than 'All Is Well' with more complex arrangements with a far greater variety of instruments. Still, the stand out facet of the album is Sam's voice. It is a rare thing for a vocal to take over the music so entirely, but this along with the lyrics makes this release very special indeed. The intro track, 'How Come That Blood', was a standout track at the Union Chapel, and it is great to find it opening the new record. As with the majority of folk songs a story is told through the lyrics and music, and this is no exception. It is at times hard to understand Sam's words through the husk, but this makes the music the more mysterious and alluring. The musical standard is exceptional, with brilliant backing music (including percussion, violin and a variety of other noises and sounds I simply don't have the musical prowess to identify!). 'Way Go Lily' takes the pace down a little and has Sam sounding like a rather slurry Nick Drake, just with more emotion in his voice (if this is possible!). This track is simple and a pleasure to behold. Track 3, 'You Better Mind' is a much more powerful song, with heavy percussion and a lovely duet with Beth Orton (who also appeared with Sam on stage at the Union Chapel), their voices gel together very well and the splendid beat means that you can't sit still through this jolly song. Title track, 'I See the Sign', is a more thoughtful number, slower than the former track, with Sam exploring a more blues / folk style of vocal work.

'Johanna the Row-di' is one of my favourite tracks from this album, reminiscent of songs you may be sung as a child (and I'm sure with Amidon's lineage he was certainly entertained with this song). His voice is so well suited to this song it is just lovely to listen to, with the same lyrics repeated for most of the song 'Go row the boat, child; let me go home', it is certainly short and sweet! 'Pretty Fair Damsel', 'Kedron' and 'Rain and Snow' cover the middle of the album, great songs sung with emotion and feeling, but for me not standout tracks. 'Climbing High Mountains' however, is exceptional, simple and very moving. A song of travelling and just trying to get home, as appropriate in meaning today as it ever was, clearly Amidon is very comfortable singing these great folk songs.

The penultimate song, 'Relief', is my favourite on the album. The lyrics touch your very soul, and the manner in which it is sung makes it very difficult not to relate to the hope expressed by Amidon: 'Now let's step to a new song, cos everything's ok. I'm alright. You're alright. So let's celebrate'. For a cloudy Monday morning this song has truly made me smile. Just a perfect song! Closing track, 'Red', explores the musical expertise of Amidon and co, with some brilliant banjo. However, this is not a patch on 'Relief', which would've been a great closing track. However, this is a brilliant album, and a sheer joy to listen to and enjoy, so I'm not going to be overly critical at this point!

Sam Amidon was clearly destined to bring folk to the youth of today. He does so in such a way to make it easily accessible to everyone, thoroughly enjoyable and absolutely haunting. He can also be found playing as part of the Whale Watching Tour, with Nico Muhly (and others). They are playing London and I would recommend you see them live to understand how truly exceptional these young folk musicians really are! I can indeed 'See the Sign' and it says Yes!

Charlotte Frearson

All Gigs (February 14th 2010) ★★★★★★★★

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I See The Sign
Released on 19 April 2010
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All is Well
Released on 22 October 2007
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On the web

  • Find out more on Sam Amidon’s website
  • Visit Sam Amidon’s page on MySpace
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