The idiom goes: talk is cheap.
Unless the one who’s talking happens to be Sam Amidon. Here, plucking at twanging, heart-strung guitars and rusty banjos, is a musical gabber from the same vocal vein as Bob Dylan or a rasp-less Tom Waits. Sam Amidon is not quite singer – he’s one of the rare songwriters who straddles a line between spoken word and vocal melody. He’s a story teller. He’s a poet. But he’s not an American Idol.
Amidon’s new 11-song album Bright Sunny South is made quaint by his occasionally out-of-key voice, but made profound by his lyrics. On the title track, Amidon writes in antiquated-style English, mirroring the song’s focus on the past: a soldier leaves for war, preparing for sickness and trouble. “He’s Taken My Feet” is a novel, conceptual adaptation of an old hymn, starting slow and free-form, eventually morphing into a raucous, rambling rock-out. The way he speaks a melody rather than fully developing it somehow increases its ability to stick with you, like a conversation you just had with an estranged somebody who said something that spun your head around.
There’s something pious and stoic to this album. Although the songs are clearly through-composed and highly developed, this album seems not to want to inspire assessment or analysis. Rather, this album wants feeling. Simply to stop thinking feel the deeply foresty folk orchestra that is Sam Amidon.
All in all, talk may still be cheap. Or at least a great value. Eleven songs with a whole lot of profundity for the price of a couple burritos. Worth it. 4.6/5