On Sam Amidon's self-titled album, which he produced and considers the fullest realization to date of his artistic vision, he performs radical reworkings of mostly traditional folk songs with his frequent band, multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily and drummer Chris Vatalaro, along with saxophonist and label mate Sam Gendel, guitarist Bert Cools, bassist Ruth Goller, and Amidon’s wife, Beth Orton, who adds vocals on three songs.
Sam Amidon's self-titled album was released on Nonesuch Records on October 23, 2020, with the vinyl edition out January 22, 2021. The album, which Amidon considers the fullest realization to date of his artistic vision, comprises his radical reworkings of nine mostly traditional folk songs, performed with his band of longtime friends and collaborators. Amidon produced the record, applying the sonic universe of his 2017 The Following Mountain to these beloved tunes, many of which he first learned as a child. “Pretty Polly,” for example, was one of the first traditional tunes he learned to play, and “Time Has Made a Change” is a song that his parents—singers who were on the 1977 Nonesuch recording Rivers of Delight with the Word of Mouth Chorus—sang around the house when he was young.
Amidon and his frequent band of multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily and drummer Chris Vatalaro were joined in the studio by Belgian guitarist Bert Cools (who played on his last EP), as well as Amidon’s wife, Beth Orton, who adds vocals on three songs. Acoustic bassist Ruth Goller and saxophonist and labelmate Sam Gendel also play on the album, which was mixed by Leo Abrahams. Sam Amidon was mostly recorded live in the studio. Amidon arranged the songs, which are traditional tunes, with the exception of Taj Mahal’s “Light Rain Blues,” Harkins Frye’s “Time Has Made a Change,” and “Hallelujah,” which is an 1835 William Walker shape-note tune using earlier words by Charles Wesley, found in the Sacred Harp collection of early American folk-hymns.
Sam Amidon is Amidon’s fifth recording on Nonesuch and follows the 2019 EP Fatal Flower Garden (A Tribute to Harry Smith). Additional recordings include his 2017 album The Following Mountain and Kronos Quartet’s Folk Songs the same year, on which he was a featured singer along with Rhiannon Giddens, Natalie Merchant, and Olivia Chaney; Lily-O in 2014; and his label debut, Bright Sunny South, in 2013.
Produced by Sam Amidon
Mixing and additional production by Leo Abrahams
Engineered by Cameron Craig at Hoxa in West Hampstead, London
Additional engineering by Leo Abrahams at Coronet and Beth Orton at Dawnstar
Assistant Engineer at Hoxa: Dani Spragg
Mastered by John Baldwin
Photography by Steve Gullick
Design by Ben Tousley
Executive Producer: David Bither
Sam Amidon, vocals, banjo, acoustic guitar, electric guitar
Chris Vatalaro, drums, percussion, synthesizer, piano, flute
Shahzad Ismaily, Moog bass, electric bass, acoustic guitar
Leo Abrahams, percussion, keyboards
Sam Gendel, alto saxophone
Bert Cools, electric guitar
Ruth Goller, acoustic bass
Beth Orton, vocals