Sometimes it can take me a little while to fully appreciate a new Chris Smither album but once I become more tuned in I find them to be keepers. Smither wrote every song but for ‘On The Edge’ —and this he shared with producer, slide guitarist David Goodrich.
On my initial listen I quickly gravitated to ‘What They Say’, clip clop (for Chris uses his feet on a footboard to beat out time) paced effort ‘Place In Line’ and the superb, harmonica (Jimmy Fitting) warmed, opening track ‘Hundred Dollar Valentine’. That has the superb Anita Suhanin as on she does on numerous occasions lend her wondrous harmony vocals. Priceless! Humdinger ‘Make Room For Me’ is another where she not only figures but helps Smither crank up the New Orleans-ish ‘big band’ carnival like leaning number. Remember Chris spent some time down there and is greatly influenced by the music and the culture.
‘What They Say’ featuring a to die for groove plus hooky, harmonica and violin (Robin Smither) is so good I would place it up alongside the best songs he has ever written, and when you take into account the number Chris has that is ‘some’ compliment. Another to send the mercury level up is ‘Make Room For Me’ that also offers a New Orleans feel as guitar, drums (Billy Conway), harmonica, and harmony vocals. With lyrics that speak of how the first thing you learn is life ain’t (always) fair and you aren’t going to be a millionaire.
While I enjoyed the title-track, immensely first off it wasn’t till I took time to study his lyrics and absorb the beauty of his superbly crafted work and infectious jaunty rhythm that flipped my mind as he says ‘nothin’ works when you’re gone/ my mind is hummin’ but my heart won’t sing’ and ‘my wheels are spinnin’ but they just won’t roll /I’m standin’ dead on my feet’. This is Smither at his best. ‘On The Edge’ have him speak of life’s journey and how some of us live on the edge and the different ways we work up (and), keep up our spirits up and how we sometimes are found dancing at the side of the stage and don’t do curtain call.
As for the remainder they are in the main, melancholy as in ‘All We Need To Know’, ‘Feeling By Degrees’ and there is the jaunty ‘Place In Line’. Another that has Suhanin and him feed off one another. To close, the remarkable Smither takes a simplistic approach on ‘Every Mother’s Son’ as his guitar, harmonica and harmony vocals dovetail alongside his musky tones —as he that speaks of the sorry of the plight of the character in the song, Joseph (and those he murders). But, there is more as he performs ‘Rosalie’ —something from thirty-five years ago ‘that I haven’t sung on stage in years’.
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