Compact Capsules for 11/25/06
by Dan Ferguson
Leave the Light On
Signature Sounds SIG-2001
Equate the latest release from veteran singer, songwriter and ace fingerpicker Chris Smither as the aural equivalent of comfort food. His twelfth album, Leave the Light On is one of those records that makes you want to cozy up to it regardless of atmosphere. A master craftsman when it comes to a words on paper, Smither's carefully honed songs, be it straight-up blues (Mississippi John Hurt's "Blues In My Bottle" is readymade for a picker of Smither's prowess), tunes about topical matters (the ultra-clever "Origin of Species" takes aim at the creationist types while the hard charging rocker "Diplomacy" may be Smither's most politically charged song to date), contemplative pieces (the personal "Father's Day" works as both catharsis and closure), or reworking a classic (Dylan's "Visions of Johanna" takes on a whole new life in 6/8 time) it's hard not to get lured in by the subtle power of his presentation. Add covers of Peter Case's "Cold Trail Blues" and the traditional number "John Hardy" to the Dylan and Hurt numbers and it's obvious Smither's good taste extends beyond his own material. The gruff-voiced tunesmith throws the hook out there right out of the gates on the opening track, a nifty bit of wordplay called "Open Up". It's a song chock of alluring guitar licks from Smither on his trusty acoustic blended perfectly with the mandolin strokes of album guest Tim O'Brien. Numbers like "Shillin' the Blues" and "Seems So Real" are patented Smither hunkering down on the guitar to quietous perfection. Like most Chris Smither releases, Leave the Light On sneaks on you and sinks its teeth in deep. (Signature Sounds Records, P.O. Box 106, Whately, MA 01093, or www.signaturesounds.com
Chris Smither appears at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River on January 13. Check out www.ncfta.org.
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)