All Is Well


2014 repress on vinyl, originally released 2008. LP version. Valgeir Sigurðsson's Bedroom Community label welcomes the second release from U.S. newcomer, Sam Amidon. At Sigurðsson's state-of-the-art Greenhouse Studios, Sam was left to concentrate on his intuitive interpretations of age-old folk-songs, a skill on which he proves himself to be a unique talent, drawing simultaneously on his experiences growing up a child of folk musicians in Vermont, and his more recent work in New York with the experimental indie-rock bands Doveman and Stars Like Fleas. From the opening notes of the first track, "Sugar Baby," it's as clear that All Is Well is a different album from his previous offerings, and by the album centerpiece, the wistfully poignant "Saro," it's obvious that this album is very special, indeed. With horns erupting and dissipating around the listener, Amidon's trademark delivery is perfectly offset by the tenderly plucked notes of his six-string. Nico Muhly's orchestration is not the only addition to Amidon's barrel of sounds. A dizzying amalgam of trombone, Eyvind Kang's ghostly viola, and processed percussion convert a children's singing game from the Georgia Sea Islands into the ominous ambiguity of "Little Johnny Brown." The distinctive bass of Ben Frost is evident on the pensive "Fall on My Knees," while subtle layers of electronics add an intrinsically modern aspect to the proceedings. Couple this with Sigurðsson's production wizardry and you'll realize that despite links to the Appalachian folk music of the past, All Is Well is an album that could only exist in the present. One of the unquestionable triumphs of All Is Well is its diversity. From introspective ballads of jealousy such as "Wild Bill Jones" to upbeat barn-dancing ditties such as "Little Satchel," the structure of the album is paramount in making everything work so naturally. Sam leaves the listener with a feeling of resolution parallel to that of a keen reader thumbing the last page of a favorite novel. He sings of death's spindly fingers finding him, a prospect he handles with no trepidation -- for he has Muhly's flourishing string arrangements to give him courage and form a stable bed for his tender lyricisms. In the length of an album, Amidon has struggled through gunfights, paternal tensions, religious guilt and the lonely life of a nomad, but he leaves us with the message that "all is well"; a defining statement that is bound to warm the hearts of even the coldest gun-slinger.