Sam Amidon, the man behind the space-missing eponymous band Samamidon, makes an excellent effort on his debut, But This Chicken Prove False Hearted. Amidon covers ten Americana staples (and one ’80s classic) that show faith in the original compositions and add subtle atmospheric layers beneath the bare traditional arrangements.
Amidon’s voice will likely be the big sticking point in determining whether people get into Samamidon or not. But his often-cracking warble is the anchor of this release, and it works perfectly. He seems aware of his vocal limitations, but he uses those boundaries to enhance the delivery the songs the same way singers like Bascom Lamar Lunsford and Bob Dylan have.
The album is in its finest form on the slowly lilting “Falsehearted Chicken,” the stunning rendition of Mississippi John Hurt’s murder ballad “Louis Collins” and a wonderfully drawn-out take on Appalachian folk singer E. C. Ball’s best-known song, “Tribulation.” The only song Amidon gets wrong is his cover of Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels.” His attempt to work that song’s hook into his aesthetic only manages to leave it breathless.
But This Chicken Proved Falsehearted stands up well in its own space, a pleasing listen that helps keep some old tunes in circulation. This might not be the best folk release you hear all year, but it can be a great introduction for some to the great smoky mass of early American music. If this album leads people to trace the roots of these songs, then Samamidon’s job was well done.
“Tribulation” MP3: http://samamidon.com/mp3/12%20Tribulation.mp3
“Louis Collins” MP3: http://samamidon.com/mp3/louis%20collins.mp3
Video for “Tribulation”: http://www.plugresearch.com/video/tribulation.html