I don’t have the slightest idea what drew me to Chris Smither or what caused me to give him a listen, but it was a wise choice. There just aren’t many people who do what he does, and that’s refreshing. So what does he do? He’s a finger style guitarist, (think Mississippi John Hurt or Lightnin’ Hopkins), and that’s worth listening to, but he also is a brilliant songwriter, and interpreter.
Bonnie Raitt recorded Smither’s “Love Me Like A Man” which has become one of her better known songs. He almost exclusively plays solo, accompanied by his own guitar and a “foot box” that serves that keeps the beat.
While other blues guitarist wonder too far into the land of the endless electric guitar solo, Smither’s playing serves to complement each song. Yet his playing is melodic and never self indulgent. There is no better example of his interpretive skills as his cover of Roly Sally’s “Killing The Blues.” Artists has covered the song multiple times, including John Prine, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, and others. Smither’s version is superior, taken at a meditative tempo and a vocal that captures the melancholy lyrics. It’s a masterwork.
He has recorded for several labels and now that musicians have returned to touring; he is back on the road. Chris Smither has been recording and touring for over fifty years and in the process has written several songs that are brilliant examples of his unique qriting and playing style. Check out “Up On The Lowdown,” and “leave the Light On” among others.
Smither is worth discovering and a reminder that ofttimes the best music is rarely found on the airwaves but the clubs and small venues across the country.