album reviews

Sam Amidon
Bright Sunny South
Nonesuch (2013)

Kindred spirits: J. Tillman, Mark Kozelek, Chris Whitley.

Folk singer Sam Amidon embraces an understated, mellow vibe on his new album, "Bright Sunny South". Even with the addition of organs and horns, Amidon's hushed vocals and easygoing pace give these songs a modest and reflective sound.

Amidon keeps himself busy, playing banjo, fiddle, guitar, and piano alongside a small crew of backing musicians. "I Wish I Wish" features Wurlitzer, drums, and a mournful trumpet that swirls around Amidon's unassuming voice, while a somber fiddle melody weaves in and out of the contemplative "Short Life". To Amidon's credit, these songs don't all sound the same. He hollers hoarsely on the banjo tune "As I Roved Out", giving a much-needed jolt of passion to the album's otherwise laid-back vibe.

Most of the songs on "Bright Sunny South" are traditional tunes, but Amidon is no stranger to pop covers. On his last album, "I See the Sign", he notably upended the R. Kelly track "Relief". Here he has chosen two unlikely covers: Mariah Carey's "Shake It Off" and Tim McGraw's "My Old Friend". The former loses its sultry energy, but with Amidon's warm voice and stellar instrumentation, the latter is one of the album's best tracks.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 20 September 2013.
.: Bright Sunny South on