Sam Amidon is bringing his one-man multimedia storytelling and folk song explorations to the Wexner Center, Friday, February 18th — fresh from a weekend of shows with Nico Muhly and the Brooklyn Youth Choir, where his interpretation of an 18th Century hymn, “Jerusalem,” was a highlight. Amidon mixes banjo, voice and old folk gems to create what Pitchfork describes as a “meld (of) the rural and the urban, the organic and the synthetic, the oral tradition and the written score.”
Amidon collects songs and ideas, along with field recordings and drawings, and publishes Twitter poetry. His work isn’t limited to old tunes. He contributed a cover of Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done” to the tribute album Harvest revisited, produced by MOJO Magazine. This fall he released a cover of R. Kelly’s “Relief” (stream above).
Amidon has released two full-length records on Iceland’s Bedroom Community Records, often collaborating with label mates Nico Muhly and Ben Frost, as well as Thomas Bartlett (Doveman). The New York Times describes Amidon’s latest, I See the Sign: “Playing guitar or banjo as he sings, he transforms all of [the songs], changing their colors and loading them with trapdoors. He slows them down and rewrites their harmonies, making curious, arty, quiet pop in his own mood – ornery, sensitive, distant. “I See the Sign” is a seriously intelligent record.”
If 2009 was the year of Larry Jon Wilson, 2010 was the year of Bill Fox and the Gibson Bros. I think I listened to Bill Fox’s two reissued albums — Shelter from the Smoke and Transit Byzantium — more than anything else. (Shelter got a deluxe vinyl reissue, and Scat promises a similar treatment for Transit in 2011.) Go get ‘em. And working on a story about the Gibson Bros. reunion show back in July occupied my brainspace and held my interest for months. I don’t know if CDR has any copies of the Build a Raft reissue left, but if they do, it’s required listening for any Columbus music fan or anyone with a passing interest in twisted, noisy country/blues/rock.
But in terms of new stuff, here’s what I liked this year, starting with national releases and ending with Cowtown LPs.
1. Strand of Oaks – Pope Killdragon
I didn’t immediately hit repeat when I heard this album, but once I came back to it, I never stopped. Who knew a record with songs about John Belushi (from the perspective of Dan Akroyd), a 12-foot man and JFK could be so engrossing. Devastating, too. If you think Tim Showalter is just another pretty-voiced folkie, the layers of synth and Sabbath-like riffs on “Giant’s Despair” prove otherwise. The best way to get Killdragon digitally or on vinyl is through Strand of Oaks’ Kickstarter page.