The Reverend Shawn Amos,
Loves You
(Put Records, 2015)

If you haven't heard of Shawn Amos, you know his father's work. A box of his cookies might be in your kitchen cabinet right now -- Reverend Shawn is the son of Wally "Famous" Amos, and if that fact doesn't qualify you to sing the blues I don't know what would.

And sing the blues, he does.

His backstory might explain his approach to the blues. Amos was first an A&R man at Rhino and Shout Factory, where he produced broadcasts, DVDs and CDs for artists like Quincy Jones and Heart. While he was growing up, his mother suffered from schizoaffective disorder, which led her to commit suicide in 2003. Subsequently, he learned that she had been a singer who recorded under the name Shirl-ee May, and in tribute to her, he made an album called Thank You, Shirl-ee May. That record led to his own career.

Amos, who refers to his music as secular gospel, is an ordained minister, and that orientation, as well as his his mother's tragedy, led him to his purpose with the blues, which is to sow seeds of love to one and all. To Reverend Shawn Amos, the blues teaches life lessons; it might be secular music but it is spiritual music.

That's what we find in this album. Produced by Grammy-nominated Mindi Abair, using first-rate L.A. Session musicians, and with the Blind Boys of Alabama sitting in on the opening song, Amos gives us standard blues in form but with a different function; his music recognizes that life can be tough -- after all, the opening track is called "Days of Depression," and "Joliet Bound" and "The Outlaw" are on the disc -- but Amos insists he's got "the power of the blues." The blues is a positive experience that can transform us.

Nothing on Loves You is as blatant and didactic as my description makes it sound. Amos might want to get a positive message across but he's more interested in putting good music in the grooves. He knows that if he wants to move our souls, he's got to move our bodies first, and Loves You will get your body moving.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

21 May 2016

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