Friday, 26 September 2014

Link of Chain - A Songwriters Tribute to Chris Smither

Tribute Point

I like tribute albums. I like the idea. I like it when the talented artist honoured is honoured by other talented artists. I guess you get the point.

So a tribute album to the great guitarist and singer-songwriter Chris Smither by a host of similar is going to be a winner, and is. At times it's the artist and version that pleases; at others it's mainly the covering artist. Sometimes it's all about the interpretation; at others it's when there is a recognisable echo - something that strikes you as authentic. Neither is better than the other.

The opening two performers Dave Alvin and Loudon Wainwright III delight of themselves [accepting it will always be the song covered as well]. Third Mary Gauthier and I Feel The Same is the first tribute symbiosis that strikes me as such. Fifth Paul Cebor offers up an initially idiosyncratic version of No Love Today, but it then settles into what becomes a common approach across a number of these Smither tracks: a distinct element of swing. Seventh, Jorma Kaukonan, is the first wholly acoustic reflection of a Smither song Leave The Light On. Eighth is a gorgeous folk version of Small Revelations by Aoife O'Donovan and Stephanie Coleman, new to me. Tim O'Brien on ninth Origin of Species proffers another swinging tilt [clarinet and yodeling], and tenth is Bonnie Raitt providing a live version of probably the most famous cover of a Smither song [which is by her] with Love Me Like a Man. I'll mention eleventh, Paul Mulvey's cover of Time to Spend, because this is another swing offering [bluegrass swing, perhaps].

I hadn't intended to go through most of the tracks, but as I have more or less done so: twelfth is Song for Susan, and a lovely harmony infused performance by Mark Erelli and Jefferey Foucault. I like Peter Case's fourteenth track Caveman because I rather like Peter Case. The fifteenth and last track is Train Home, covered here by Patty Larkin - again new to me - and it is a wonderful echoing guitar blues, a blues one would have expected to hear more of above the swing leanings.

Hot on the heals of Smither's own cover of his songs, Still On The Levee, this various artists offering is a further welcome feast of Chris. Not the greatest last-line tribute, but I guess you get the point.

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