“I saw a church with a sign; it was open; I stepped inside; it said double your misery back if you ain’t satisfied.” Punch-to-the-gut provoking, that’s but one clever lyric rhyme among several that Chris Smither sings during “Nobody’s Home.” Together they speak volumes in a world full of clueless discourse on just about everything.
With remarkable poetic imagery, Smither pulls select slices of the craziness into harmless focus. He sings well of the heart, from the heart, otherwise. “Call Me Lucky,” Smither’s 18th album and first batch of new ruminations in six years, marks his 50th year performing. He stands — sits, actually — alone in the realm of folk/blues singer-songwriters by his spectacular outlook, creaky-croaky voice, and neat guitar playing.
Uniquely, the album features eight new Smither originals, five each displayed in two very different settings, on two separate CDs. Three well-worn but dusted-up covers are interspersed between them. “The Blame’s On Me” jiggles it all open, its chugging roots rock disguised as folk. Next, Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene” comes off more realistic — as far as the storyline — in Smither’s dusty Southwestern folk setting. Then the theater of “Down to the Sound” arrives, repeated on the second CD like something dark that Mark Knopfler might have come up with in his Dire Straits days.
In the company of Billy Conway of Morphine on drums; Matt Lorenz of Suitcase Junket on keys and violin; and David Goodrich on guitars and sometimes piano; plus Keith Gary on piano on the blacker CD; Smither pulled off an incredibly diverse and compelling mix of songs and moods.
The aforementioned “Nobody’s Home” appears first as jittery mountain music, and then melodramatic and heavy. The ageless “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” is presented wistfully, while Smither’s own “Everything On Top” takes off as a raw and raging punk-rocker. The back and forth between the repeated songs proves to be enthralling, but comparisons are fruitless in figuring which version is the best. Chris Smither makes them all count. Call us all lucky for that.
– Tom Clarke
- Chris Smither
‘Call Me Lucky’
Label: Signature Sounds Records
Release: March 2, 2018