Saturday, 9 August 2014

Chris Smither - Still On The Levee

Class is Class, Whenever

If you want to know what I think of Chris Smither and his work, please check out these postings: first two albums I’m A Stranger Too and Don’t It Drag On here; playing live in Exeter in March, 2012 here; album Time Stands Still here, and album Hundred Dollar Valentine here.

I am a fan and therefore I have a fan’s considerable interest in and pleasure of listening to Smither’s latest release, a career retrospective recorded in New Orleans. The various musical additions – always light-touch – and the vocal support/harmony from for example his sister Catherine Norr provide new as well as remembered depths. It is all brilliant, as his songwriting and playing is always brilliant. The contemporary versions of his earliest songs from those first two albums provide the most interest for me, especially as his deep tenor today delivers quite different nuances in these songs to the much lighter and distinct warble of his youth, and this is most noticeable and moving [in that recognition of change and constancy that does co-exist in a musicians re-visitings] in his version on Disc One of his very first song Devil Got Your Man. Fiddle is provided by his daughter Robin.

The dominant genre is the blues, on both discs, and Chris’ guitar playing, foot-tapping and that distinctive vocal – at times pushed to quite lively inflections – are collectively outstanding. Jimmy Fitting’s harmonica accompaniments add even more subtle class to two discs of absolute Smither’s re-workings of class.

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