Blues On Stage Logo

CD Review
GE Smith
"Incense, Herbs and Oils"
Green Mirror Music - GM-2674
by Ann Wickstrom
Most people go in streaks with their music. We get something new that we just love-or we re-discover something old-and we listen to nothing else for days and days. Such is the case for me right now with the new one from G.E. Smith, only I think this one probably has enough variety to keep me in the zone for weeks. I am smitten.

Yes, this is the G.E. Smith who led the Saturday Night Live band from 1985-1995. You know, the cat with the long blonde ponytail who used to make you wish you were in the live audience so you could hear more of his playing during those commercial breaks. He was with Hall & Oates for a number of years and has toured/played with Dylan, Clapton, Buddy Guy, Tom Petty, Neil Young and all points in between.

Smith and his wife, singer/songwriter Taylor Barton, created the Green Mirror label. Incense, Herbs and Oils finds Smith with bassist Paul Ossola, former Wings drummer Steve Holley and rhythm guitarist Tom Cosgrove. Seven of the eleven cuts are originals. GE comes out screaming like Roy Buchanan on "Trouble in the Woods". "Standing by the Beside of a Neighbor" is my favorite cut and is actually a re-worked old gospel tune that GE learned from a 1928 recording by the Golden Gate Quartet. (Charlie Musselwhite covered the same tune several years ago). I don't know which is more endearing: G.E.'s lap steel guitar or Paul Griffin's wurlitzer electric piano.

I had an opportunity to "speak" with G.E. (ya gotta love email) and ask him about a few of the other tunes. He turned "The CooCoo" into a medium tempo blues burner but it actually originated out of English-Scottish folk tradition. He learned it from a 1930's recording by banjo player Clarence Ashley.

"For the Feint of Heart" is a slow instrumental that fades out all too quickly (just 2:24). I was disappointed that there wasn't more of it, but G.E. has always liked the way John Mayall's live version of "Stormy Monday Blues" fades in with Clapton "just blazing away" on guitar (on Mayall's Looking Back LP), and he wanted to try for something of the same effect.

As a kid, G.E. got turned onto the blues through listening to early Stones records in the mid-60's and then checking out the originals (Muddy, Elmore James, etc.). Incense, Herbs and Oils is not all blues by any means but you can definitely tell there's a soft spot for it in G.E.'s heart.

"Tonight We Shake" is straight-ahead, hit the dance floor rock and roll. "The Chopper" is an instrumental with a bit of a Bo Diddley groove and enough effects and octane to make it sound like something right out of a high-action adventure flick.

Two of the best cuts are "Heroin" and "Sunday", which was co-written and sung with Barton. G.E. speaks most of the lyrics in a style that is kind of a cross between Lou Reed and Anthony Kiedis on the Red Hot Chili Pepper's "Walkabout".

G.E.'s crisp, clean guitar and lap steel are at the center of this CD's appeal. It is REAL music from a REAL player and is just an extremely enjoyable listen. When I asked G.E. about the name "Incense, Herbs and Oils", he said it is an allusion to the record that was very influential on his guitar playing. Obviously he wants to keep a little mystery there, but if you figure it out, hey - let me know!

G.E. and his wife will perform "Sunday" on the Conan O'Brien Show Tuesday, January 12. Also, check the Green Mirror web site for tour dates in a few months:

This review is copyright © 1998 by Ann Wickstrom, all rights reserved.

music bar
Mailbox E-mail Ray Stiles at:

Blues On Stage Table of Contents:
Home Page | Calendar | Spotlight | Features | Photo Gallery
Live Reviews | New Reviews | CD Reviews | New CD Releases | Blues Profiles
Blues Musicians | Blues Clubs | Blues Jams | Memorial | Blues Links
New Links | Website Updates | Website Description | Blues News | Message Board

Music Top10% Sites This page hosted by geo logo Get your own Free Home Page

Visit other GeoCities Homesites
blues graphic

Copyright © 1997, 1998 Ray M. Stiles. All rights reserved.
Blues On Stage is a ® Trademark of Ray Stiles.