One day last week, a collision of a couple Web tangents I was following resulted in me downloading Samamidon's "All Is Well." I'm not sure I respect myself for it, but I've been obsessed with the album for the past few days. In particular, with "Saro," his version of a 150-year-old (or so) folk tune that may come from England and may come from Appalachia.
"All Is Well" caught my attention because I was Webstalking Nico Muhly, the 26-year-old composer and wunderkind whom Rebecca Mead profiled in the Feb. 11 New Yorker. I went looking for samples of Muhly's music, and on his blog Muhly mentioned he had been the arranger on Samamidon's new album, which was being featured on eMusic that day. The two worked on the album in Iceland with Valgeir Sigurðsson, who produces many of Bjork's recent albums. (More connections: Here's a YouTube video of Nico Muhly, Sigurðsson, and Grizzly Bear eating putrified shark, with Samamidon's music playing the background.)
Amidon grew up playing fiddle with folk music groups in Vermont, then went to Sarah Lawrence, moved to Brooklyn, and plays with various sensitive-man bands there. His past two solo albums have mostly been traditional songs like "Saro," which Amidon sings in a washed-out, barely inflected tenor. It's music to light candles too, and Amidon is so self-consciously delicate that I either want to hold him in my manly arms and rock him to sleep or stuff him full of corned beef and force him to study jujitsu. If Samamidon and Iron & Wine got into a fistfight, I'd bet all my money on Sam Beam.
But there's something about the combination of Amidon's voice and Muhly's arrangements -- who takes the repetitive, minimalist folk tunes and weaves repetitive, John Adams Lite harmonies around them -- that just gets me. Even the parts with banjo. I keep listening to "Saro" (and "Wedding Dress" and "Sugar Baby," two other tracks on the album), and when I'm not listening to the song, it's running through my head.