The Reverend Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood is a deep roots collaboration between the blues singer-songwriter and harmonica player and some old friends: drummer Brady Blade (Indigo Girls, Buddy & Julie Miller), bassist Christopher Thomas (Norah Jones, Macy Gray), and longtime Rev guitarist Chris “Doctor” Roberts.
Their debut album, Blue Sky (available April 17, 2020) comes on he heels of The Rev’s 2018 acclaimed, politically charged Breaks it Down. 2019 saw him alighting in Texas, where the South begins, the West ends, and something else is taking shape – a world away, geographically and culturally, from his native LA. Here, he gathered together the Brotherhood, creating a sense of home in his rootlessness. Blade, Thomas, and Roberts provide not only musical, but also spiritual and emotional support for embracing new territory, artistically and otherwise.
“All I’m doing is singing and playing harp,” the Rev says. “I couldn’t imagine making this music with people who are not friends.”
Unlike past Shawn Amos collaborations with Matthew Sweet and Solomon Burke, the Brotherhood is in it for the long haul. “Everybody feels pride of ownership,” the Rev says of Blue Sky.
“These songs are really special to Shawn,” says Brady Blade, who previously hosted the Rev’s debut album at his Shreveport studio, and laid down drums. “It’s up to us whether we’re ready to jump in and contribute 150%. If we’re not, it’s not a brotherhood.”
Clearly, from the barn-burning blues stomp of “Counting Down the Days” and “Troubled Man” (featuring Ruthie Foster) to the smoky R & B of “Albion Blues” to the rollicking “27 Dollars,” the Brotherhood is, indeed, down.
The material showcases Shawn Amos’s songwriting like no previous Rev outing; here furious, there vulnerable; here gadabout and crazy, there forlorn and tender; all buoyed by musicians emboldening a beloved family member.
“When I first played blues,” the Rev says, “I had no interest in writing. I put up a firewall between the Rev and my Americana past.” Meaning his three Shawn Amos albums, lauded singer-songwriter offerings featuring Ray Parker, Jr., Solomon Burke, and the Jayhawks’ Mark Olson. “But I slowly got the bug again. This is the first time I’ve had the space to try to be more of a singer-songwriter within the confines of the blues.”
Brady Blade says, “Brotherhood, to me, means togetherness, being able to interact with each other in a more personal way because it’s not like ‘Oh, he’s my boss. I’m just the side guy.’ The Brotherhood, in this context with Shawn, helps drive the music. Because the tension has to be there. Also, the happiness has to be there. For all of us, the happiness has definitely come out on this record.” Happiness due in part to a creative spirit fully immersed in the work, able to access and manifest the nitty-gritty because his brothers have his back. “My whole artistic life has been a process of: how do I get all of me to show up?” the Rev says. “I fought hard to be here, so I’m gonna make sure all of me shows up.”