Sam Amidon - Lily-ONonesuchSam Amidon - banjo player, fiddler, guitarist, singer and song collector from Vermont - is sometimes called.
Sam Amidon – banjo player, fiddler, guitarist, singer and song collector from Vermont – is sometimes called “eccentric.” Yet on his sixth LP, his unconventional approach to interpreting traditional tunes sounds sensitive and sensible. It’s easily one of the most beautiful, subdued folk records of the year.
He recorded it in Reykjavik with producer Valgeir Sigurdsson (Bjork, Feist, Bonnie “Prince” Billy) and invited jazz guitar great Bill Frisell to join his regular collaborators Shahzad Ismaily (bass) and Chris Vatalaro (percussion and electronics) in the mostly live sessions.
Though occasionally grounded in Amidon’s up-tempo banjo and more traditional-sounding percussion, the arrangements are more often ephemeral and harmonic. On Blue Mountains, Vatalaro’s modern textures play over Frisell’s West African-sounding guitar parts the long title track begins a cappella and slowly builds toward a discordant climax Your Lone Journey is gentle, naked and lonely.
In Amidon’s hands, old American songs live and breathe, proving that sometimes irreverence is the best path to faithfulness.
Top track: Blue Mountains
Sam Amidon plays the Drake Hotel Wednesday (December 10).