2008 In Review, Vol. 2 - Sam Amidon

Sam Amidon, more commonly known as Samamidon, very quietly released one of the year’s best folk records way back in February. It’s called All Is Well, and if it sounds at all timeless, well, it’s because it basically is. All 10 songs (some you may have heard - “Sugar Baby”, “O’ Death” - others you probably haven’t - “Saro”, “Little Satchel”) come from the public domain, songs passed down through generations until the origins are all but forgotten.

There is a natural sadness in Amidon’s voice, which suits the quiet and contemplative mood of these 10 songs perfectly. The arrangements vary from straightforward shuffles (“Wedding Dress”) to banjo and string laden dirges (“O’ Death”) to those that have a sort of organized chaos to them, sounding like a progressive folk band from the Dust Bowl (“Little Johnny Brown”, “Fall On My Knees”). Best of all though is “Saro” (mp3 below), a song I posted way back when and still one of the most beautiful I’ve heard all year. Possibly dating back to the mid-1800s, it tells the heartbreaking tale of an immigrant who has left his love behind and comes backed by mournful horns and strings.

Any fan of folk music should take a listen to All Is Well and keep Sam on their radar for 2009 (new record! tour!). He was kind enough to pass along these detailed thoughts on 2008 a few weeks back from an airport terminal in Spain:

Sam Amidon explains why there are no reasons not to listen to R Kelly right now, and forevermore (aka Sam Amidon's top 10 items of interest from 2008):

1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

Other than the fundamental problems that 1) it's in translation, unless you speak Spanish, and 2) it's not early Evelyn Waugh (which is a problem shared by many novels), this book kicks ass so far & is a barrel of laughs. There's a donkey and a Don Quixote and a Sancho and they just get the shit kicked out of them constantly like buster keaton for the first 200 pages of the book. It's more violent than I was anticipating, but it's very funny. Best book of 2008! Good work, MIGUEL.

2. Sitting in this fucking airport for 4 hours, Jesus Christ.

Thomas and I are in the airport in Dublin, a long layover during various flights back to New York after playing a super fun couple of shows (Samamidon & Doveman) at the Tanned Tin festival in Castellon, Spain. The good people of Spain welcomed us with open arms & ears and Thomas aka Doveman had a fervent fan who was like a world cup football fan, but for doveman instead of football. He stood up at random moments to shout 'DOVEMAN!' even during the Samamidon set, it was life-affirming.

AIRPORT! Our flight just got delayed for 2 more hours. Oof. So I've downloaded Phil Collins' first album from Itunes so that I have something to listen to on the flight home because the only things i've been listening to for the last 6 days are the first three Police albums, and also Shirley Collins' version of "Streets of Derry." So now it's time for a change. Hello Phil!

3. Being homeless

or rather, itinerant... I have no money with which to pay rent, so in 2008 I have taken up a life of itinerancy. It's thrilling, lonely, and calming. I recommend it, especially if you can travel light enough so that you don't have to check bags. It's also good if you can go to COPENHAGEN because that is a nice city! and also if you can bring a few DVDs along to keep you company: Two For The Road, with Audrey Hepburn & Albert Finney, directed by Stanley Donen; Two Lane Blacktop, with Dennis Wilson and an astonishingly magnetic 21 year-old James Taylor, directed by Monte Hellman; Nacho Libre, with Jack Black; and a four-DVD set of the best Michael Jordan basketball games, the entire games, which costs like $24 and is fully worth watching over and over again to see the master at work. Also sometimes you meet really nice people and have weird conversations with them, and once in awhile you get to ride on a train, which is heaven.

4. Sleeping in 2008

This is a good activity because then you have dreams. My dreams used to primarily consist of reuniting with old friends who I had lost track of. But now, in 2008, we have Facebook, and my dreams do not need to serve this purpose anymore and so they give me other things to look at while I'm sleeping. My grandmother just joined Facebook. I had no idea who it was for a full minute, because I only call her 'Grandma,' and while I know her first name, it took awhile to just figure out who this was and what was going on.

5. Movies that were relased in 2008.

Rachel Getting Married, Cloverfield, Hancock, My Name Is Albert Ayler. Each of these movies made me weep with their powerful emotions, except for Rachel Getting Married & Cloverfield, but those are good too because even if they do not pack the expressive wallop of a Hancock or a My Name Is Albert Ayler, they are nice to look at.

6. Stars Like Fleas "Ken Burns Effect," Nico Muhly "Mothertongue," and Doveman "Footloose"

I'm not sure it's kosher for me to mention these as favorites because I'm in all of these 'bands' and on 2 of the three albums listed (Thomas did the whole Footloose thing himself). But on each of these albums, there are so many things happening that I had no role in and that totally blow my mind when I listen to them - the insane Shannon Fields-curated soundscapes of Ken Burns Effect, Nico's mad & magical use of texts and textures on Mothertongue, and Thomas' thunderous drumming on Footloose - that I would be remiss not to pay them tribute as crucial items of interest that were released in the year 2008.

7. Four Compositions (Quartet), Anthony Braxton

The percussionist on this beautiful album of composed/improvised music is Aaron Siegel, with whom I will be releasing an album of free jazz or whatever you want to call it next year on Peacock Records, it will be called "Fiddle & Drum." at any rate, Mr. Braxton & his bandmates have developed this insane kind of stream of consciousness near-unison thing that just sounds like a little thin cloud of ideas flowing around your brain and saying hello to all the different other thoughts you already had.

8. Crying in 2008

Fun, but not when you're sad! More fun when you're happy. Like when Obama is becoming president!

9. Fivethirtyeight.com, Get Your War On, and Sarah Palin

Three things that kept me sane during the election.
Because if Sarah Palin really exists, then she's crazy and we're sane. And if she does not exist, we are insane. And she exists. Ergo, we are sane and she's insane, and it's all going to be okay.

10. President Obama.

...okay that's ten items of interest for 2008, have a nice day.

(except I just read in the New York Times that O. won't be able to use email or his blackberry when he becomes president. What if his entire system of goodness & competence as a politician & a person is predicated on managing his life via these channels? He is totally screwed. I mean I'm not going to buy a Phil Collins album where he's not allowed to sing or play drums or write songs, so why should I live in a country with a magnetic & futuristic young president who can't send text messages or check news feeds on his blackberry?)

Samamidon looks ahead to 2009: "a new record is nearing completion and will be out in the spring; and travels are planned throughout not only earth but also hopefully mars & possibly jupiter - I'm trying to secure a booking agent up there but those people are flakey."

MP3 :: Saro
(from All Is Well. Buy here)

“Wedding Dress”



ß. Andrigon said...

Every day I log into Facebook, it suggests a different obscure Amidon "I may know"...
A fine list, your top ten goes to eleven, as they say,

From my new set of jokes:
What's black & white & drags on the ground?
-a "Z" bra

Mike said...

cool post man-- i saw doveman tour with mike doughty (with shahzad ismaily, too) a few years ago, and then heard his daytrotter songs (check it out if you havent-- and i didnt even realize it is with sam amidon-- and i really like david thomas broughtons stuff too-- he cameos on the session) and ive been obsessed. good to know that sam is out there making great music too. every time i think i heard all the great music of '08 something totally new pops up!