In a recent issue of Mojo magazine they distributed ‘Harvest Revisited’, a track by track re-recording of the 1972 Neil Young album ‘Harvest’, involving folk artists as diverse as Villagers, Phosphorescent and Chip Taylor. Upon reaching my favourite track on the album, ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’ , I heard a voice so light as if it would float away into the ether like a feather on the breeze. Compared to Neil Young’s trademark shaky vocals that gave the original a worn and broken earthiness, the almost Nick Drake-like vocals of this version coupled with the solo tremolo tinged guitar gave the song a sense of helpless transience and indifference. It breathed a new life into the observation of heroin addiction, as if this were the perspective of the junky in question who easily slips away out of existence. This was my first experience of Sam Amidon.
Coming from a family heavily involved in folk music and resembling a young Pete Seeger when sporting a banjo, Sam Amidon seems to have been destined to become a folk musician and has been producing records for ten years now. Though not enjoying chart success he has toured endlessly throughout that period, solo and sharing a stage with Beth Orton, gathering a modest following who do appreciate his subtle brand of folk arrangements. And even though he is steeped in the folk traditions and authenticity of the canon of The Watersons, Mississippi John Hurt and English folk ballads, he still indulges in a bit of contemporary pop every now and then.
Like the aforementioned Nick Drake, Sam truly comes into his own when his wispy ballads are given centre stage. Ballads so haunting and delicate that it feels like to look at them too closely would cause them to crumble into dust and scatter. His arrangements are intimate and fragile affairs that when given a discerning ear seem to scream through their silence and subtlety, louder than a wall of feedback and hit their mark directly somewhere between the heart and soul.
‘Rain and Snow’ can be found on his recent album ‘I See the Sign’, available in record stores now.