John Amos
"Bending The Light"
by Johanna J. Bodde

JOHN AMOS   "Bending The Light"   (Froggiestyle Music)

John Amos lives and runs a guitar shop in Red River, New Mexico. The name of the town sounds already intriguing, I can only imagine how wonderful it must be there... With people who are still relaxed and take time for a joke and a helping hand, while a warm wind breezes through. That's exactly the mood we find on this singer-songwriter's album "Bending The Light". Yes, that's him as a little boy with the ladies, in the newspaper photo from 1958, on the cover!

He's performing professionally for over thirty years and opened for big names like Roger McGuinn, Donovan, Emmylou Harris and David Crosby. John made lots of friends along the way too and he plays with them if he can find them: "My band changes all the time." Nevertheless, he gathered a bunch of very talented people in the studio for this project. Keith Sykes (co-writer of John Prine, worked also with Jimmy Buffett) co-produced the album and plays some guitar parts. The other co-producer is newcomer Monica Smart, also "the spark that helped finish the unfinished songs", according to John, the lyrics of "Cold And Hard" are mostly her work. The great Lloyd Maines plays wonderful lapsteel, dobro and pedalsteel, like he always does anywhere, but in the meantime it makes us sit up and pay attention immediately when he starts off stellar second track "If U Lived In My House". The list goes on: Kevin Welch adds his magnificent guitarplaying (electric and acoustic) to various tracks and is one of John's best friends since they were in their 20's. And let's not forget bassist Mark Andes, who indeed played in "countless legendary bands". I'm already a fan of Mark since Firefall, he's not only a tremendous player but also verrry handsome! John's secret? "Always play with people who are better than you!"
So this is, if we want to avoid the dreadful word "americana", a catchy mix of folkrock, countryblues and a bit of country, every perfectly played song definitely has its own sound and flavor. Statements of fans show that the music is loved by three generations! I do like John's voice, slightly weathered and sometimes leaning towards speak-singing. There's indeed a strong resemblance with Mark Knopfler, but why hold that against John, like British critics (vinegar bottle always handy) seem to do? I have no problem with Mr. Knopfler at all! And John deserves applause for his reply: "Thank you so much for the vocal chord transplant, Mark!"

The well-written lyrics have a light-hearted feeling, John likes to sing about "crazy love and life", the darker subjects are also approached with some sense of humor. Maybe a sarcastic "bite" here & there in the performance would make them even stronger.

The CD-title comes from "Everything Turns Blue": "Be careful what you wish for in the middle of the night / you could be thinking of the rainbow when you're bending the light." Hard to pick favorite songs from this fabulous collection... "Prohibition Blues", John Amos and Keith Sykes on acoustic guitars in a countryblues indeed. "Gravity" has powerful percussion (by Jeff Sussmann), while "Rise Up" with horns and piano brings us right into New Orleans and rhythmic "Don't U Threaten Me With Love" is a well-chosen final song that sticks in our mind. I go for gorgeous long ballad "After The Fall" with mandolin: "We place the words / so carefully / we make the truth lie 'til it looks like just what we need". I understand this gentleman so well, who received a CD from John on an airplane. He was blown away right out of the gate and patted his foot or strummed the wheel all the way home!
Written by Johanna J. Bodde, February 2007.