Reverend Shawn Amos inspires during troubled times

The Reverend Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood are joined by The Sisterhood on the superb album “Blue Sky,” which shall be released on Friday, April 17.
Photo by Fred Siegel

With rare exceptions, drum loops make me cringe. But just beyond the brief automated shuffle at the outset of the rambling “Stranger than Today,” the opening song on the album “Blue Sky,” there lies a slate of highly imaginative, organic roots music. An initially off-putting loop ended up being the hook that reeled me straight into the greasy, gaping world of The Reverend Shawn Amos & the Brotherhood.

Amos is the son of Wally Amos of the Famous Amos cookie brand. He’s worked inside the record biz, was an entrepreneur named by Forbes as an “Up and Comer,” and yes, he’s an ordained minister.

Most notably, Shawn Amos writes great songs, sings the hell out of them, blows a stormy blues harp through them, and causes a band to really stand out by playing them. The Brotherhood consists of drummer Brady Blade, bassist Christopher Thomas, and guitarist Chris “Doctor” Roberts, all acclaimed and in-demand. Their brotherhood is said to be strong enough to outlast a pandemic. I hope so, because I’d sure like to witness them translate the incredible intricacies and sensations found on this album, from the stage.

I would love on the off chance to catch Ruthie Foster join this crew in some saloon for “Troubled Man,” as she does here. Each line that Amos and Foster soul-shout during that delectable slice of emotion resonates the dirty gospel truth. Amos delivers his thoughts with cracked swamp mud in his throat, and Foster accents the distressed nature of them with the kind of golden Texas honey that she alone can provide. And, the tune just rocks.

Matters settle down for “Her Letter,” of the Dear John type. Amos bemoans the misfortune of that document — wet with tears — with fantastic simile. And through it all, the players adapt, and play their asses off. The strum and ping of an acoustic guitar, a strolling drum beat, and a bass line that seeks and finds the perfect punctuation for each line of the story, replicate the feel behind the words.

“Counting Down the Days” offers vague ruminations of a man leaving a town, the music stomping, and Amos wielding his harp like a sword stabbing at demons. “Hold Back” then cooks with rock ‘n’ roll gas. Plaintive reflections on a life lived, and perhaps regretted, “The Pity and the Pain” features the gorgeous backing voice of Kenya Hathaway. The music there is purely Southern, as if wafting from the open stained glass of a church turned courthouse. Right through to the end, when a pure New Orleans street celebration erupts in “Keep the Faith Have Some Fun,” every one of these songs resonates like a bright, multi-hued “Blue Sky” of blues for us all, in these highly troubled times.

-Tom Clarke

  • The Reverend Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood
  • ‘Blue Sky’
  • Label: Put It Together Music
  • Release: April 17, 2020

The Reverend Shawn Amos in the Purple Haze in Memphis in 2015.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
Chris “Doctor” Roberts has always been The Brotherhood’s guitarist.
Tim Parsons /Tahoe Onstage 2015

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 23 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, and the 45-year timelines and ever-growing family trees of The Allman Brothers Band and Los Lobos. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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