Certified pure blues singer, harmonica player, songwriter and producer, The Reverend Shawn Amos is on a mission to spread his glorious, secular gospel to all. The son of chocolate chip cookie magnate Wally “Famous” Amos and night club singer Shirl-ee May Ellis, he is dedicated to continuing, extending and spreading the tradition of the blues with unsurpassed fervor and emotional expression.
Born in New York City, raised up on the gritty Sunset Strip in the seventies and preceding his performing career with many successful musical ventures, Amos breaks nearly every cliché with his talent and unstoppable drive. The results are in evidence on his four previous releases beginning with In Between (2002) and culminating to date with the sizzling and embraceable The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You. It is required listening for navigating the vicissitudes, meeting the challenges and enjoying the spoils of modern living. The album marks the producing debut of 2x Grammy nominee, Mindi Abair.
Ten bone-deep originals and two well-chosen covers contain the combined exceptional ensemble skills of Chris “Doctor” Roberts (guitars), Brady Blade (drums, percussion), Chris Thomas (bass), Anthony Marinelli, Hassell Teekell (keyboards), Mindi Abair (saxophones, producer), Lewis Smith (trumpet), Forever Jones (backing vocals) and Nick Lane (horn arrangements). In addition, guest artists, The Blind Boys of Alabama and Missy Andersen, lend their illustrious presence to two tracks.
“Days of Depression,” with the lauded gospel group adding considerable gravitas, harkens back to the prewar South. Grinding slowly and inexorably forward on a haunting, hypnotic work-song guitar riff along with Amos intoning poetic lyrics.
“Brand New Man,” conversely, “tears the roof off the sucka” with a stomping R&B groove to lift listeners right out of their seats. Amos unleashes his soul power while making his carnal desires clear. The throbbing “Boogie” would be lascivious merely with the music, though Amos leaves no doubt as to his desires with the invitation “C’mon and boogie (2x), I ain’t got all night, keep this thing locked tight” while the sensuous Missy Andersen urgently concurs and Amos blows out the reeds on his harp.
He turns from his basic primal needs to a higher calling with the classic Memphis soul of “Brothers’ Keeper,” his sinewy vocals moving easily from a bluesy growl to a soaring falsetto. The stone funk of “You’re Gonna Miss Me (When I Get Home)” allows Amos to drip malevolence by calling out his unfaithful lover, then he wails his harp in sympathy. A sprightly, two-beat cover of Minnie Lawler’s “Joliet Bound” affords Roberts the opportunity to flaunt his impressive six-string skills as he weaves expressive blues lines around Amos, relating with appropriate dread, his tale of woe regarding the infamous Illinois prison.
The dramatic, hook-heavy R&B of “Will You Be Mine” is a vocal and musical show-stopper with Amos passionately extolling with all his might in a classic plea for starting over and seeking redemption intensified by his lyrical harp lines. He struts, swaggers and menaces on “Outlaw” as Lucifer’s disciple as Roberts fires off a distorted solo. The sweet-singing Mindi Abair duets in harmony with Amos on the Jimmy Reed classic “Bright Lights Big City” as the band lightens the mood by loping appealingly in a lilting boogie shuffle.
Album producer, Mindi Abair, co-wrote the swinging shuffle “Hollywood Blues” as a snarling look at life in “Tinsel Town.” Amos accuses with scalding, uncensored street lyrics and Abair honks and squeals with venom on her alto sax. “Put Together” is a sexy, funky tribute to a modern day “femme fatale,” with Amos praising and pleading and Roberts wringing prurient licks from his guitar. Amos opts to end his set with the tender soul ballad “The Last Day I’m Loving You,” though he spikes it with a kicker.
As opposed to “saving” souls, the temporal and spirit-nourishing blues of the “right” Reverend will provide “soul” as well as love to one and all. Romantic love and lust, along with vengeance may be standard blues fare. However, in the hands, heart and head of Shawn Amos they become the seeds for sowing and reaping life lessons as well as unqualified entertainment of the highest order. The good Rev may promote what some call the “devil’s music,” but the figurative “religious” experience is a God send.