Tuned In: Sam Amidon and more

  • Matthew Caws

  • Modest Mouse

  • Moonlight Davis

  • Sam Amidon

Friday, October 06, 2017


I fell under Sam Amidon’s spell when I heard his “Lily-O” record a few years back. He had a hypnotic way with banjo or fiddle or guitar, an unfancy, plaintive voice, and he used traditional folk songs as raw material to make uniquely atmospheric creations. A mournful haze, a sudden stab, a haunting lullaby.

Amidon has a new record out on the Nonesuch label called “The Following Mountain” — his first LP of original songs — and he’ll take the stage at the Parlor Room in Northampton on Thursday at 7 p.m. Avi Jacob opens the show.

“The Following Mountain” is an experimental work of nine compositions, many using Amidon’s fingerpicked circular patterns on acoustic guitar to create a framework that’s swirling and magnetic — like “Juma Mountain,” open and airy, as jazzy as it is folky, a slow-motion carousel of patting percussion and moody swells. “What a voice, what a voice, what a voice, what a voice, what a voice I hear,” he sings with calm repetition, like a human equivalent of Radiohead’s “Kid A” synthesized glitches.

The album’s sprawling final track is an in-the-moment collaboration with free jazz drumming legend Milford Graves, “April,” in which the music exists in a world of heartbeats, not metronomes. The whole record works that way, its adventurous soul out in the open. On the short piece “Ghosts,” Amidon forces his voice into froggy territory as percussion clangs around him like a workshop in full bang. “Warren” is peaceful but slightly off-kilter, with rubbing chords and gentle unease that has something in common with some of Robin Holcomb’s work.

And whatever’s on his records, Amidon’s live shows are unpredictable in their own special way, as I discovered, frozen in place, unable and unwilling to leave his engrossing outdoor set at the Clearwater Festival in 2015 despite the fact that it was raining, I had no raincoat, and was supposed to be elsewhere. Recommended.

Moonlight Davis sings the music of Stevie Wonder (with help from musical director and pianist Miro Sprague, guitarist Jason Ennis, bassist Jon Suters and vocalist Morning Star) at the Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Pianist Scott Hall (from Drunk Stuntmen) brings his solo show “All Alone” to the Luthier’s Co-op in Easthampton on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Salvation Alley String Band follows at 8 p.m., and Lonesome Brothers, with Hall along as a special guest, close the night with a long set starting at 9:30 p.m. that will include a performance of their entire 1999 album, “Diesel Therapy.”

Modest Mouse comes to John M. Greene Hall on the Smith College Campus on Saturday at 8 p.m.

The Void Union (from Boston) and Beige (from Florence) team up for a night of ska and fun at The Root Cellar in Greenfield on Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

Ralph White, Bulle and Beverly Ketch are the triple-bill at the latest in-store concert at Mystery Train Records in Amherst on Sunday at 6 p.m. Free show, but donations are accepted for the traveling musicians.

Nada Surf frontman Matthew Caws  plays The Iron Horse on Monday at 7 p.m. Local singer/songwriter Mark Schwaber opens the show. 

Saxophonist Fred Haas makes his first appearance as the featured guest musician at the Northampton Jazz Workshop at City Sports Grille at Spare Time Northampton on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., followed by the regular open jazz jam from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Jazz fusion band Brand X has been in and out of existence since the mid-’70s (and famously had Phil Collins as a drummer for a time), and the latest lineup — featuring founding members John Goodsall on guitar and Percy Jones on bass — makes a rare appearance at The Iron Horse on Wednesday at 7 p.m.