Since 2018’s acclaimed, politically charged The Reverend Shawn Amos Breaks It Down, the Rev has been on the road nonstop with The Brotherhood — a cohesive band of legit titans, aka: drummer Brady Blade (Buddy & Julie Miller, Dave Matthews, Indigo Girls), bassist Christopher Thomas (Norah Jones, Carly Simon, Macy Gray), and longtime Rev aide-de-camp, guitarist Chris “Doctor” Roberts – all friends from a life in music, now gathered on a singular mission.
2019 also saw The Rev alighting in Texas, where the South begins, the West ends, and something else is taking shape – a world away, geographically and culturally, from his native LA. It is in the hill country of Texas where the Rev and the Brotherhood convened for a new recording slated for 2020 release. Blade, Thomas, and Roberts provide not only musical, but also spiritual and emotional support for embracing new territory, artistically and otherwise.
“All I’m doing is singing and playing harp,” the Rev says. “I couldn’t imagine making this music with people who are not friends.”
Prior to emerging as the Reverend in 2013, folks knew Shawn Amos as producer (Solomon Burke’s Live in Nashville, and Shout! Factory box set Q: The Musical Biography of Quincy Jones), content creator for companies looking for ways to tell their stories on the internet, and Americana singer-songwriter who’d grown up in a dramatically dysfunctional L.A. home, a story the Rev serialized as Cookies & Milk in the Huffington Post
Unlike past Shawn Amos collaborations with Matthew Sweet and Solomon Burke, the Brotherhood is in it for the long haul. “Everybody feels pride of ownership,” the Rev says of Blue Sky. The band has already hit the road and will tour through 2020.
“These songs are really special to Shawn,” says Brady Blade, who previously hosted the Rev’s debut album (produced by Mindi Abair) at his Shreveport studio, and laid down drums. “It’s up to us whether we’re ready to jump in and contribute 150%. If we’re not, it’s not a brotherhood.”
Clearly, from the barn-burning blues stomp of “Counting Down the Days” to the smoky R & B of “Water” to the rollicking “27 Dollars,” the Brotherhood is, indeed, down.
The material showcases Shawn Amos’s songwriting like no previous Rev outing; here furious, there vulnerable; here gadabout and crazy, there forlorn and tender; all buoyed by musicians emboldening a beloved family member.
“When I first played blues,” the Rev says, “I had no interest in writing. I put up a firewall between the Rev and my Americana past.” Meaning his three Shawn Amos albums, lauded singer-songwriter offerings featuring Ray Parker, Jr., Solomon Burke, and the Jayhawks’ Mark Olson. “But I slowly got the bug again. This is the first time I’ve had the space to try to be more of a singer-songwriter within the confines of the blues.”
Brady Blade says, “Brotherhood, to me, means togetherness, being able to interact with each other in a more personal way because it’s not like ‘Oh, he's my boss. I'm just the side guy.’ The Brotherhood, in this context with Shawn, helps drive the music. Because the tension has to be there. Also, the happiness has to be there. For all of us, the happiness has definitely come out on this record.”
Happiness due in part to a creative spirit fully immersed in the work, able to access and manifest the nitty-gritty because his brothers have his back. “My whole artistic life has been a process of: how do I get all of me to show up?” the Rev says. “I fought hard to be here, so I’m gonna make sure all of me shows up.”