Sam Amidon with Bill Frisell & Shahzad Ismaily
Folk Melodies Vividly Reimagined
Friday, October 17
Presented in association with Ars Nova Workshop
Sam Amidon, voice, fiddle, banjo + guitarist
Bill Frisell, guitar
Shahzad Ismaily, bass
Kenny Wollesen, drums
“Hauntingly beautiful” –New York Times
“He not only has an impressively deep knowledge of traditional song forms, but takes liberties with the country’s past in order to document his own personal present.” –Pitchfork
Ars Nova Workshop and FringeArts are pleased to present singer/fiddler/banjoist/guitarist Sam Amidon with jazz great Bill Frisell in celebration of Lily-O, the new album of reimagined folk songs on Nonesuch Records. The album, produced by Valgeir Sigurosson (Björk, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Feist) also includes Amidon’s other frequent collaborators, bassist Shahzad Ismaily (Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, Lou Reed, Tom Waits, John Zorn) and drummer Ken Wollesen (Norah Jones, Sean Lennon, Ron Sexsmith).
Frisell has been a hero of Amidon’s since the young Vermont native first heard the guitarist play at the Village Vanguard during a teenage visit to New York City. The two musicians stayed in touch and had their first live collaboration in 2011; not long after, Amidon began contemplating a return to Iceland to make a third album at Sigurosson’s Greenhouse Studios. He eventually invited Frisell to join him and Sigurosson, along with Shahzad Ismaily to record what became Lily-O. “I decided to put us all in a room together in Reykjavik for a few days,” Amidon said. “I knew if I got Bill together with those guys they would get into a deep situation. I imagined that we would do something weird and fiddle-based, but when we got in there it just felt great to sing the songs I had gathered.”
Lily-O follows four albums by Amidon including his 2013 Nonesuch debut, Bright Sunny South. 2010’s I See The Sign and 2008’s All Is Well were made for the Icelandic label Bedroom Community and featured orchestral arrangements by composer Nico Muhly. Along the way Amidon has performed worldwide in myriad contexts, collaborating with musicians such as Muhly, Thomas Bartlett/Doveman, Beth Orton and Glen Hansard. He has appeared as a guest artist on recent albums by Tune-Yards, Aoife O’Donovan and the Blind Boys of Alabama.
His Nonesuch debut is, he admits, “a lonesome record.” Despite its often elegiac, solitary feel, this is a work borne out of friendship and intensive collaboration, recorded in London with a small coterie of virtuosic multi-instrumental players: Thomas Bartlett, Shahzad Ismaily and Chris Vatalaro. The folk songs, shape-note hymns, and country ballads that Amidon performs deal on the surface with the darkest, most fundamental of issues—the specter of death, the looming clouds of war, unquenchable longing, unrequited love. Yet there is beauty and comfort in these time-tested words and well-worn melodies and in Amidon’s simple, emotionally direct delivery of these songs, as captured here on tape by the legendary English recording engineer Jerry Boys.
The Vermont-born and raised, London-based Amidon’s particular gift is not to compose new songs, but to rework and repurpose traditional melodies into a striking new form that makes them feel very much his own. He delivers these songs in a hauntingly plainspoken voice, one that encompasses sadness and stoicism, vulnerability and wisdom. As Pitchfork has said, “his interpretations are so singular that it stops mattering how (or if) they existed before.”
$20 / Members save 30%