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"The Reverend Shawn Amos Breaks It Down" Mastered At Bernie's
The Reverend Shawn Amos mastered his new album at Bernie Grundman Mastering with renowned producer/engineer James Saez. "The album covers a lot of thematic ideas," says Amos, and while I was touring the recordings were done live in a lot of different studios with a changing cast of musicians. Somehow James and Bernie were able to give it a cohesive sonic continuity that connects all the tracks. A Herculean effort was put into the mastering and the sequencing."
"It all started with a single that I had produced," adds Saez. "But as the album concept unfolded, we began putting it all together."
Listen to Amos and Saez discuss the mastering with illustrative music clips:
The Reverend Shawn Amos, son of Wally Amos (Famous Amos cookie brand), attributes his diverse background to growing up in the colorful Hollywood landscape. Prior to becoming a blues preacher - and ordained minister with the Universal Life Church - Amos was an A&R executive at Rhino Entertainment and vice president of A&R at Shout! Factory, where he produced and recorded multiple Grammy-nominated projects and titles for legacy artists ranging from Heart to Quincy Jones, for whom Amos later ran the Listen Up Foundation.
"I'm a bit of a classicist and a purist about late 1950s to mid 1960s Chicago blues, which is mostly identified with the Chess catalog." Amos comments. "It was that time when acoustic blues first became electric. The sonic range was limited and the amps were sort of crude and the recording technique was really not premeditated. There were people in the room playing and the magic was really in the ensemble, and recording techniques that were in the process of being invented at the time. I like that unity and a sort of rawness."
His third studio album, "The Reverend Shawn Amos Breaks It Down," features 21st century Freedom Songs, socially conscious soul, a stripped-down cover of David Bowie's "The Jean Genie," and a somber version of Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?" that turns the tune into modern gospel. At the center of James Saez' (Social Distortion, Jerry Lee Lewis) straightforward production, Amos' voice and harmonica work to create a unified whole.
James Saez reflects on the way that Grundman masters. "It's not always what to do, it's what not to do. It's how to bring stuff up. Bernie has a care and a soft touch at making something sound like an entire album as opposed to a single. It's like gathering all the marbles and putting them in line, so that they feel like they were there all the time."
"Bernie is a jazz cat," adds Amos. "So he understands the importance of subtlety. He knows that very small micro movements have large effects on people. He has such an amazing intuition and knows what sonically needs to happen for a listener to allow himself to move from one song to the next song, and then to be able to clean their audio palate, and then move on to the next song."
"Space takes such a big role in this record," says Saez. "Whether it's in the songs or in the instrumentation or in the vocal. There are places where things shift and it goes in a different direction and then comes back abound. Bernie is very conscious of space and how it works in the record."
"Regarding the sequencing," says Amos, "I wasn't convinced that this would work as one album. The tribute to Bernie is that when we read the first reviews of the album, they talk about this record as a cohesive statement of where we are at in our times and the things we need to think about and look at ourselves. It harks back to freedom songs and protest music and the soul music of the past. Bernie figured out a way to make it all hang together."
"I mixed the tracks specifically so that Bernie could pull it together," explains Saez. "He definitely rose to the occasion. Reviewers are talking about the sequencing and about how one song flows into another. I didn't expect that, but it definitely worked."