23. Sam Amidon–I See The Sign

Best of 2010As I said in my review at the time of its release, the sheer volume of material on Rough Trade’s ‘Psych Folk 10’ compilation was almost oppressive. The fact that the artists were similar enough to warrant inclusion in the first place meant that it was hard to decipher which were the golden nuggets to pursue further. As it happened, Rough Trade opted to produce a limited edition of the album for sale at their tent for the Green Man festival, featuring a bonus 10” with several tracks from the compilation along with an exclusive Doves remix to lure in collector types like my good self. As a result, somebody who already had a perfectly serviceable promo copy on CD found himself parting with a tenner, largely to get the 10” vinyl. And, fortuitously, one of the select choices to gain a slot on that EP was Sam Amidon, whose ‘Way Go Lily’ quickly established itself as a firm favourite.

Sam Amidon

Somewhere on the clichéd comparison measuring stick between Alasdair Roberts and Nick Drake lies Sam Amidon, with an evocatively forlorn voice and an impressive knack for dusting down and reinterpreting songs of all ages. The sting of the vocals is matched by the taught playing and insistent strings which make this such a memorable listen. Add in Just Played favourite Beth Orton and it’s not to difficult to see how ‘I See The Sign’ has snaffled a place in the end of year list.

Orton’s propensity for haunting harmonies tends to split opinion, but in cahoots with Amidon it’s a perfect fit and ‘You Better Mind’ is one of a number of stand out tracks here. Of all the records in this list, this is one of the more difficult ones to write about. It has a distinctive atmosphere to it which, were I able to sum it up in a sentence or two, wouldn’t be anywhere near as impressive as it is. Instead, let me return to the track which hooked me in, in the hope that it might do the same for you. ‘Way Go Lily’ builds swiftly towards a soaring chorus, the titular phrase repeated. mantra-like, as delicately arranged strings and horns offer a blood rush behind. It’s one of those rare songs that stands up to repeated, consecutive listens and by the time Beth Orton drifts into range towards its conclusion it will already have likely got you on side.

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