Sam Amidon
The Following Mountain


3.6
great

Review

by Sowing STAFF
May 31st, 2017 | 11 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A pleasantly innovative slice of modern folk.

Born into a musical family, Sam Amidon learned to play the fiddle as early as age three. His parents are folk artists, his brother is a professional drummer, and he played piano professionally as a teenager with his childhood friend Thomas Bartlett (also known as Doveman, who produced Carrie & Lowell and frequently collaborates with The National). It’s safe to say that music runs in Amidon’s blood, and since 2001 he has been releasing solo material to varying levels of originality. His debut, Solo Fiddle was merely a compilation of traditional Irish instrumental covers, and his most recent past – 2014’s Lily-O – saw him drop a collection of reworked folk songs. Although his work has always been technically proficient, he has never crafted an album of entirely original material…until now.

The results do not disappoint for what one might expect, coming from an artist who was submerged into music basically since his birth. The Following Mountain is ripe with instrumental mastery, including fiddle, acoustic guitar, classical piano, various woodwinds, and an assortment of string inclusions. The record feels raw in most ways; the song structures tend to meander rather than coalesce, chasing ideas that sometimes reward listeners and other times lose them. Sam’s vocals might be coined as an acquired taste, as he alternates between Nick Drake reminiscent warbling (his cuts on ‘Juma Mountain’ especially lend credence to the comparison) and scratchy, dissonant wailing (see ‘Ghosts’). It’s a hodgepodge of concepts, but Amidon’s distinct fingerprint remains on the album at all times.

The Following Mountain is at its best the more Sam chases his imagination. Sure, the tightly crafted acoustic number ‘Gendel in 5’ and the rural folk stomper ‘Blackbird’ sound like sweet spots, but the heart of this record lies with Amidon’s inability to be content with connecting the dots. ‘Ghost’ is the first obvious instance, as it allows him to trail off into this harsh sounding, vocally flawed stream of consciousness that results in something of a cacophonous mess. It might be the least listenable track on the album, but it sets an expectation early on that Amidon is out to serve himself here – this is his playground, and we’re just invited. It’s an expectation that is met consistently as the record progresses, culminating in the wholly unorthodox, eleven minute curtain call ‘April’ – which is addictingly experimental in every way and employs the services of revered jazz percussionist Milford Graves. The track is emblematic of the album’s strongest traits, as it tumbles down a rabbit hole of folk eccentricity that showcases Amidon at his best: in full on jam session mode, left to his own devices.

Still, one can’t help but wonder what might be possible if he focuses his efforts a bit. Nobody should want him to rein his creativity in, as it is what makes him such a promising artist in a scene being increasingly consumed by pop culture. Perhaps channeling is the better word, as a lot of his experimental ventures here – as admirable as they are – feel scattered. Too often, tremendous ideas feel lost because there are other conflicting sounds and directions occurring simultaneously; or, because a good idea is chased too far to the point of losing its appeal. As his premier original composition, The Following Mountain illustrates a massive wealth of musical ability and endless directions to take that talent in. Even if it isn’t the most polished or focused piece, it’s a tantalizingly unpredictable listen that with the right molding and direction, could signal even better things to come for Sam Amidon and his fans.



Recent reviews by this author
Darkside SpiralTones and I Welcome to the Madhouse
clairo SlingAnthony LaMarca and Angelo Spagnolo Bread Is First
Megan Wyler Upside NowCivil Twilight Story Of An Immigrant
user ratings (13)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sowing
Moderator
May 31st 2017


38431 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Juma Mountain":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viHphCNweU0

"Gendel in 5":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSUpBLB_27k

"April":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5LKf42gde4



This has the feel of something that will grow on me and make me hate some of the critiques I made here. Really beautiful in spots, very eclectic and wander-y which is at times great and at other times just okay.

Digging: Darkside - Spiral

ramon.
June 1st 2017


3806 Comments


Really great review. Listening to the embedded tracks now, really pretty stuff. I can kinda see what you mean about meandering structures though I am really liking the man's overall sound.

TwigTW
June 1st 2017


3879 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is still growing on me. Lily-O was like that too. It took awhile for me to 'get it', but now I love what he does with Bill Frisell on it . . . It's great that he's writing his own music, but I miss the interpretations of traditional folk songs (with the occasional Mariah Carey Cover).

BullettoBinary2
June 1st 2017


122 Comments


Met Sam at the Eaux Claires festival two years ago, super nice guy. Excited to give this a listen.

butcherboy
June 1st 2017


9464 Comments


percussion is great on this.. and his voice is very nick drake-like, which is a grand thing.. will listen again and rate.. nice review!

tommygun
June 3rd 2017


26997 Comments


> innovative
> folk

pick one :D

nah jk this sounds like nice background music will check

Sowing
Moderator
June 3rd 2017


38431 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@crypt: thanks man! I like the meandering structure because it feels fresh, but at times I think it's just a tad overboard.

@Twig: this is actually my first experience with him, so I'll have to go back and revisit his covers.

@Bulleto: let me know what you think!

@butcherboy: yeah the Nick Drake vocals jumped out at me immediately

@tommy: let me know what you think, it's def enjoyable as more than background music IMO





TwigTW
June 3rd 2017


3879 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

If you find this interesting, I bet you would like Lily-O. Bright Sunny South is great too--but it's more straight-forward folk without the experimentation.

Sowing
Moderator
June 4th 2017


38431 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'll check out Lily-O on a slow week then for sure. June is too jam packed with pop/folk stalwarts for me to get around to it this month.

ashcrash9
June 11th 2017


3127 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is beautiful stuff

TwigTW
June 11th 2017


3879 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

...and he just contributed to an album with Kronos Quartet. Hard to keep up with this guy!



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy