This latest from Chris Smither is gloriously signature in sound. Largely blues-based, there is skiffle and celtic tinges here and there, always Smither’s distinctive deep vocal, the percussion of Billy Conway and Chris’ foot-tapping so often setting an in-your-room ambience.
Two songs side by side – Everything on Top* and Sittin’ on Top of the World – and then Lower the Humble remind so much of Chris’ earliest work, more folk-based, with the plucked/sliding guitar work of that time, the latter song with delicate organ and piano in accompaniment. This track also tells an affecting narrative of change and loss, weighty in the vocal gravitas. There are string touches throughout the album too, solo and lightly layered.
She Said She Said is foot-tapped out, rolling plucked guitar, gentle vocal harmonising, a lovely song again, though lyrically lamenting with She said I know what it’s like to be dead.
Opener The Blame’s on Me is a bar-room stomper, lambasting the universe for its ills that make the singer’s promises failed ones – that railing against but also accepting: the universe is guilty but the blame is all mine. Second Maybellene is a brilliant take on the Carter/Hudson original, violin and a choric backdrop adding sweet nuances to the otherwise blues drive. Third Down to the Sound has a haunting opening with violin again and piano runs, and then such a sweet cascading melody, chaotic collections of symbols of me delving into significances of self-reflection. This is such a beautiful song.
And this is a brilliant, significant album from one of the great solo artists. Read my other reviews of Chris Smither's music and playing live here.
*Check out the rip-it-up alternate take of this on the ‘B-Side’ - gives Springsteen a run for his own signature...