Johnsmith - Traveler

Traveler

Johnsmith

Blue Pine Music
Rte. 1
Trempealeau, WI 54661

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Roberta B. Schwartz
(rschwartz@oeb.harvard.edu)

Johnsmith's greatest asset is his voice - an instrument so soothing and fresh that he makes you feel good right away. It's something like instant Prozac. Much like David Wilcox and James Taylor, Johnsmith has the ability to sweep you away with his comfortable vocal style and lyrics so well-crafted that you don't realize how good he is until you listen to the words.

Traveler is Johnsmith's third solo recording. It has all the markings of a seasoned musician as well as a seasoned traveler. And just like a good book, all the listener needs to do is curl right up and settle in for the journey. Several tracks take us deep into the heart of Ireland (where Johnsmith recently toured) while others take us deep inside the heart of the man.

All of the songs are so good that it is difficult to point out a few of the highlights, but I will try. The opening track, Part-Time Angels, is a song about each of us as ordinary people living ordinary lives, and the moment we are suddenly called upon to do something extraordinary. It has a nice, gentle melody, with outstanding support by Chris Rosser on piano and organ.

Rooks in the Castle was inspired by Johnsmith's tour of Ireland. The song draws you in with its fresh, upbeat melody and descriptive lyrics of the lush landscape, real and imagined:
Now there's rooks in the castle, change in the air
The wind and the rain, no they don't really care
Towers will crumble and crowns will fall
The crows and the ravens will nest in these walls
And the doors will rot and the hinges rust
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust

Johnsmith can sing and write a love song better than most. We Got it Right opens with lovely, understated guitar picking in a quiet tune which celebrates the rightness of one perfect love. Salt in the Sugar provides a recipe for love where a certain amount of chaos seems to spell success. It is a light, refreshing look at love co-written with Dana Cooper. Appalachian Rain, the album's best cut, co-written with Buddy Mondlock (who provides harmony vocals), is both heartfelt and beautifully crafted. The Appalachian Trail represents the journey away from love and back to the self. The beauty of Johnsmith's voice is overpowering here. And finally, Love's Worth Fighting For, co-written with singer/songwriter Pierce Pettis, tells us that love sometimes resembles a battlefield where love is fought for and won. You will be humming its bouncy melody for days after you first listen to it.

Johnsmith is that rare commodity. His engaging voice, both familiar and gentle, yet strong and compelling, draws you to tunes so well-crafted they stay with you. He not only makes it all look and sound easy, but he is easy to listen to, to take in and know in your heart that all he sings about rings true. He's one of those musicians who goes about quietly writing and singing songs that deserve a much wider audience. Pick up a copy of Traveler and bring home the work of one of the sweetest voices on the acoustic stage. A truly outstanding effort!

Track List

  • Part-Time Angels
  • Rooks in the Castle
  • We Got it Right (with Tom Kimmel)
  • Up in County Down
  • I Will Fly
  • Salt in the Sugar (with Dana Cooper)
  • Appalachian Rain (with Buddy Mondlock)
  • Love's Worth Fighting For (with Pierce Pettis)
  • All is Well (with Lisa Aschman)
  • Traveler
  • Heart Wide Open (with Tanya Leah)

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2002, Peterborough Folk Music Society and Roberta B. Schwartz.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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