Amigo is a rock and roll band. This might sound quaint or even a little passé but it’s an entirely apt and appropriate description. Amigo is a guitar, a bass, a drum set and buckets full of songs and its members share a proud and unrepentant belief in rock & roll’s divine promise and power to shake audience and band alike to their core.
The Charlotte-based trio, comprised of guitarist Slade Baird, bassist Thomas Alverson and drummer Adam Phillips, has been putting rubber to road in senses both theoretical and literal since their inception in 2012, developing their keen sense of harmony and interplay, honing their songwriting chops and developing an absolutely white-hot live show which has become the main vehicle for their brand of rock and roll evangelism. The intervening years have found the band playing shows numbering in the several hundreds and driving their trusty van tens of thousands of miles as they regularly traipse around the southern United States and beyond, taking their unpretentious, straight-from-the-heart shaggy dog story to the people.
Cut in the summer of 2016 with famed producer/engineer Mitch Easter at his Fidelitorium in the decidedly anti-music biz hamlet of Kernersville, North Carolina, And Friends is an album that is at once raucous yet intimate, traditional but ambitious, and finds the band culling influences from 50’s doo-wop to Hank Williams, John Prine to The Replacements, Tom Petty to Dinosaur Jr.
Baird, like any great songwriter, builds his songs from the foundation up, luring the listener in and getting them moving with songs that would be at home in any honky tonk, dive bar or juke joint. But astride the plinking, pounding piano, hard-driving rhythm and swamp-scorched guitar solos sit the album’s subjects, whose true depth is revealed and unraveled upon closer inspection via Baird’s tightly packed lyrical prowess.
Blending the standard fare of exultant joy, rock and roll knuckleheadery, heartbreak, longing and love unrequited with much deeper searching, yearning and asking of the big questions (What does it all mean? Why do I matter? What comes next? What the fuck are any of us doing here?), Amigo’s songs unpack themselves slowly and show their myriad faces with each new listen.
Between name-checks of Damocles and references to the astral bodies, Amigo keeps their feet rooted firmly in the dirt as they reminisce about the old clothes we used to wear and postulate on love, sin and the path of the righteous. It is this balance of the real and the surreal, the imagined and the tactile that makes And Friends farther reaching than any adjective-laden rock subgenre.
It sounds beer-soaked but it is metaphysical. It feels heartland but it is soul-unburdening. It’s decidedly American but viewed through a philosophical lens.
Most importantly, it’s fun. It’s exuberance defined. And thus, it is rock and roll in its purest form.
And Friends is an album that encourages you to keep dreaming, to keep believing, to understand that the power of rock and roll still lives and breathes and can still offer salvation. Not surprising, then, to find that it’s progenitors are a band who play every show and sing and play every note as if it is a blessing, a celebration and welcome every crowd, every listener as if they are family.