Various Artists – The Amos House Collection, Volume III (Wishing Tree Records)
A house is a place where people escape rain and snow, where parents raise babies, and sometimes where musicians record. Some people own their houses, some live in others’ houses, some live in condemned houses, and some have no houses, by choice—but more often ill fortune.
Guilt is a powerful tool. However, a tool even more powerful than guilt is the knowledge that someone is already fighting pain in one way or another, with no personal gain in mind, and no fear of sacrifice. Here, even those with no idea where to begin need only make an easy decision: buy one hell of a collection—two compact discs with a surprisingly consistent lineup—and simultaneously help some lost Providence, Rhode Island residents.
Similarly, anyone interested in beginning a rewarding search for new music can turn to this collection. Even set aside the fact that twenty groups contributed new or previously unreleased songs with a selfless goal in mind. Volume III is basically a list of lower-profile musicians who write songs more skillfully than nearly everyone in the mainstream.
Wishing Tree’s own elf-ish lady, Emily Sparks, immediately steps back from the rest of the set’s philanthropic feel with her song, “Find Your Own Fire,” and although it is gripping and well-realized, her first words “Find your own fire / Stop playin’ with mine” seem to imply the kind of selfishness found in the streets and among people with little or nothing to share.
Skipping tracks is basically unnecessary on this collection. Spoon‘s acoustic, energetic “Jonathan Fisk (Demo)” complements Sparks’ uniqueness, A quiet track from another Wishing Tree artist, Richard Davies, is similarly different, and a medieval-sounding track from British folk hero James William Hindle follows perfectly.
The mood picks up with Wheat‘s “Long Shadow, USA—Wheat vs. Tim Rutili,” (recorded in Califone-friendly Clava Studios and mixed by indie superman Brian Deck) in which Scott Levesque’s “Come on, come on, come on,” challenges and comes head-to-head with T.R.’s crushing, explosive guitar. An epic battle ensues, and in the dust clouds that follow, amazed listeners witness Rutili’s victory celebration, as he leads Califone in an intense rendition of the Stones’ “Ventilator Blues.”
The second disc is just as good, and even boasts a sorrow-drenched track by Wilco called “Let Me Come Home.” In all, The Amos House Collection, Volume III is near-perfect in its lineup, contribution, and message.
Truly, this collection invokes a multiplier effect: although charity alone should leave buyers with a kind of satisfaction, the music is equally rewarding. Each listen brings new appreciation for what’s hidden in the independent underground—certainly, whatever the mainstream is, this is something entirely new and different, and reinforces the notion that rock and roll will never die. Just as the charity helps to jumpstart some near-lost lives, this collection brings new sparks to rock and roll.