—The Associated Press.
Chris Smither has the soul of a poet, the supple fingers of a guitar god and the voice of a sage. Celebrating 50 years of songwriting and performing, his newest recording, STILL ON THE LEVEE, provides a sweeping showcase of Chris Smither’s music.
It may be his sixteenth album, but Smither sounds timeless; utterly confident and unafraid, filled with humility, humor, a knowledge of what inevitably lies ahead, yet refusing to succumb to darkness. Here he reconnects with his New Orleans roots, recording at The Music Shed where guests like Allen Toussaint could stop by. Other visitors adding their talents to the twenty five tracks include Loudon Wainwright III, Kris Delmhorst, New England’s Rusty Belle, and members of renowned rock band Morphine.
Born during World War II, Chris Smither grew up in New Orleans. Turning his back on his anthropology studies, he headed to Boston. where he forged lifelong friendships with fellow folkies, including Bonnie Raitt, who went on to record his songs, “Love Me Like A Man” and “I Feel the Same.”
What quickly evolved from his New Orleans and Cambridge musical experiences/influence is his singular guitar sound – a beat-driven finger-picking, strongly influenced by the playing of Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin’ Hopkins, layered over the ever-present backbeat of his rhythmic, tapping feet (always mic’d in performance).
By the time Smither recorded his third album, Honeysuckle Dog, friends Lowell George (Little Feat) and Dr. John were playing on it. His recording, Happier Blue, received an award as Best Folk Recording of 1993. Smither soon shared concert dates with B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Nanci Griffith, and the hugely successful, original ‘Monsters of Folk’ tour with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Dave Alvin and Tom Russell. Emmylou Harris recorded his song, “Slow Surprise,” for the The Horse Whisperer soundtrack. His CD, Drive You Home Again (1999), garnered four-stars from Rolling Stone. In 2005, jazz great Diana Krall covered “Love Me Like A Man,” introducing what is now a blues standard to a whole world of jazz fans.
Later this year, Signature will release LINK OF CHAIN, a disc of Smither material interpreted by a who’s who of musicians, including Josh Ritter, Bonnie Raitt, Tim O’Brien and many more.
If STILL ON THE LEVEE serves as any preview, hearing others’ interpretations should prove equally exhilarating as witnessing Smither’s own take on his back pages.
“With a weary, well-traveled voice and a serenely intricate fingerpicking style, Mr. Smither turns the blues into songs that accept hard-won lessons and try to make peace with fate.” – The New York Times
Catch a bit of the Smither Magic Live: