SAM AMIDON: All Is Well (Bedroom Community)


Posted on Oct 17th 2007 02:10 pm

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Samamidon: All Is Well

All Is Well
Bedroom Community 2007
10 Tracks. 47mins49secs

In just over a year, Icelandic imprint Bedroom Community, headed by Björk and Bonnie Prince Billy (amongst others) collaborator Valgeir Sigurðsson, have distilled some of the most interesting records around, first with Nico Muhly’s delicate Speaks Volumes, then with Ben Frost’s textural Theory Of Machines, and, more recently with Sigurðsson’s own stellar pop opus Ekvilibrium.

Joining them is folk singer Sam Amidon, a twenty-six year old musician from Brattleboro, Vermont, who currently lives in New York. He shares his time between his solo project and various bands, including Doveman, Stars Like Fleas and The Amidons, a band formed by his parents and dedicated to traditional dance and music forms. Sam’s first album, Solo Fiddle, released in 2001, collected his interpretations of traditional Irish fiddle pieces recorded with Assembly, a folk band that Sam formed when he was a teenager and which also features his drummer brother Stefan. Earlier this year, Sam returned with But The Chicken Proved False Hearted, a collaboration with Thomas Bartlett, published on Plug Research, which focused on songs cherry-picked from the vast repertoire of traditional American folk music.

The same process informs All Is Well. Ten songs, lifted from the Appalachian folklore and given a resolutely fresh sheen under the expert hand of Sigurðsson. Sam, who, besides vocal duties, also plays banjo, acoustic and electric guitar and fiddle on one track, is surrounded by brother Stefan (drums on Wild Bill Jones and Wedding Dress), Nico Muhly (piano and orchestral arrangements), Ben Frost (programming and bass), Aaron Siegel (percussive textures and glockenspiel), Eyvind Kang (viola), Morse (additional vocals on Little Satchel), and Sigurðsson (bass, electronics, harmonium and percussion).

All Is Well is a rather beautiful collection of delicate traditional songs set against intricately woven backdrops, with Amidon’s smoky voice often placed a little forward in the mix, as to emphasise the down to earth aspect of the project. Far from being restricted to traditional folk arrangements, the songs are given ambitious brushes of strings, brass and discreet electronics, yet this only serves to stress the natural variations and strengths of the melodies. On the bittersweet tale of ordinary jealousy Wild Bill Jones, Nico Muhly, on piano, provides a warm counterpoint to Amidon’s plucked guitar motifs. Strings and brass touches are added as the song gains momentum, with Stefan Amidon coming in so delicately toward the end that he goes almost unnoticed. It is Muhly again who gives definition to Wedding Dress and Little Satchel by weaving rich orchestral tapestries upon which banjo and acoustic guitar draw subtle lines.

Things kick off pretty low key with Sugar Baby, on which acoustic and electric guitars provide the bulk of the accompaniment. Later, O Death appears to head in a similar direction at first, with the voice casting a shadow on a single melody played on the banjo, but the outlook becomes more inviting as elements are discretely added, while the delicate acoustic ornamentations of Fall On My Knees and Prodigal Son benefit from a more elaborate treatment, but retain the sparkle of their acoustic shell.

With All Is Well, Sam Amidon has crafted a precious gem of a record, all in nuances and shades, with delicate overtones and airy harmonies. Sigurðsson’s production is light and subtle yet it gives these songs fantastic depth and contrast without ever overshadowing Amidon’s delivery. The Bedroom Community family is growing, but the standards are as high as ever.


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One Response to “SAM AMIDON: All Is Well (Bedroom Community)”

  1. […] in 2007. After joining the ranks of the ever excellent Bedroom Community, Sam recorded All Is Well, his second album, with a number of Icelandic musicians, including Valgeir Sigurðsson. The album […]