One voice, six-strings, two tapping feet, and a room of riveted fans. Such a simple recipe ... such a deep performance. You could have heard a pin drop while Smither crooned, picked and talked his way through this show. It was one of those concerts where it would have been rude to let out even so much as a whisper to your companion, even if you were sitting at the very back of the room. It's a good thing too, since talking would have caused one to miss Smither's lyrics, which range from humorous to profound but are always
To give you an idea of how long Smither has been at this, my brother saw him in 1968 in a very small room at St. Cloud State University. He played many coffeehouses in those days, especially in his home base (at the time) of Boston. Originally from New Orleans, Smither is a part-folk, part-blues, part-country singer/songwriter whose guitar playing is "one-third Lightnin' Hopkins, one-third Mississippi John Hurt, and one-third Chris Smither". He employs his fingerpicking style on a blue Alvarez Yairi, which makes for a
fairly bright sound. This is a man who also plays slide - with no slide. He steadily taps his heels and toes on a mic'd board he keeps beneath his feet. His voice is a gravely baritone that's loaded with mileage and a cynical, amused "been there, done that" kind of wisdom. He can tell you all about looking for love, finding love, losing love, and ceasing to care about love. Evidence of this is "Get a Better One" from his new CD Drive You Home Again (an absolutely wonderful album without a single clinker). He relays experiences with three different women and before you know it, he's opting for a dog instead.
Touring in support of the new CD, he played about half of its songs. It features many guest musicians (including ex-Storyville vocalist Malford Milligan), but since he plays alone in concert, Smither played the tunes that are best suited to a solo performance. Luckily these are among the strongest on the recording: the dark and brooding title track, the nortena-flavored "Tell Me Why You Love Me", "No Love Today", "Hey Hey Hey" and the hymn-like "So Long". He also performed some of his older songs as well as a few covers, including as "High Heeled Sneakers" and "Dust My Broom."
You can find out the latest on Chris by visiting his web site at www.smither.com As for Drive You Home Again, it's "two thumbs WAY up." Grab a copy and listen to it with headphones in a dark, quiet room. When it's over, I think it's a safe bet you'll be saying, "WOW".
This review is copyright © 1999 by Ann Wickstrom, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.