The Reverend Shawn Amos is a Los Angeles-based, chart-topping bluesman ready to turn any venue into a 1960s’ Chicago blues club. His foot-stomping, harp-wailing performances, like tent revivals of yore, energize the faithful, and convert the wayward to the Rev’s message of booty-shakin’, deep joyful blues. From West Coast clubs, to Deep South joints, to European festivals, to YouTube, to the podcast universe, the Reverend Shawn Amos’ message of joyful blues is reaching an ever-increasing flock. The Rev’s distinctive blend of black roots music, R & B, and stripped down rock n’ roll brings a bracing, soul-deep musical experience to audiences starved for authenticity, for connection. “I derive a lot of satisfaction bringing people joy,” he says.
The Rev came up in 1970s Los Angeles, at the feet of musical legends like marvin Gaye and Quincy Jones, as well as all manner of Hollywood street folk. The son of muysic agent-turned entrepreneur, Wally “Famous” Amos, and R&B nightclub singer, Shirlee May, Shawn found music early, and has worked within it his entire life. His rich career as a producer includes overseeing new music and retrospectives from R&B legends Solomon Burke, John Lee Hooker, and Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and scores of other legendary acts.
His third studio album, The Reverend Shawn Amos Breaks It Down, expands that mission. This time out, he spices up the mix with 21st century Freedom Songs, socially conscious soul, a stripped-down cover of Bowie’s “The Jean Genie” that slyly reveals the glam nugget’s blues bones, and an austere version of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?” that turns the post-punk gem into modern gospel. At the center of James Saez’ (Social Distortion, The Road Kings) no-frills production, the Rev’s voice and harp tie everything together in a stirring, celebratory whole, both beholden to history and refreshingly timely. “It’s the oddest birth of any album I’ve made,” the Rev says. “It has a particular depth.”
This sonic evolution is partly the result of over 100 dates in 2016-17, supporting his chart-topping The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You. On the road, the Rev took risks, listened to his heart, and honed his chops. In the midst of that came the seismic election of 2016, and the subsequent altering of the American landscape. All of the above significantly impacted the Rev as a father, citizen, musician, and African-American man, and all of it can be heard on The Reverend Shawn Amos Breaks It Down.
“When we toured the South in May of 2017, I could feel things changing post-Trump,” he says. “I was listening to a lot of Staples Singers, especially [acclaimed 1965 LP] Amen. The degree to which I was aware of my race was distracting, striking, hard to ignore. It was powerful being in the South and listening to protest music, to freedom songs conceived to fuel a movement, with no thought toward commercialism.” One can hear the Staples, as well as Curtis Mayfield, in Breaks It Down’s debut single “2017” (video now at 9K+ YouTube views), which calls for unity and compassion in the face of intense division.