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Michael Smith - Such Things Are Finely Done: Michael Smith Live at Tales from the Tavern

Such Things Are Finely Done:
Michael Smith Live at Tales from the Tavern

Michael Smith

(Real Eyes 019)
Recorded Feb. 28, 2003 at
Mattei's Tavern in Los Olivos, CA

Tales from the Tavern
P. O. Box 1672
Santa Ynez, CA 93460

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Moshe Benarroch

Michael Smith is probably the ultimate singer-songwriter for the connoisseur or the ultimate songwriter's songwriter and as such is one of the best kept secrets of American culture. It's just time for you to discover him. In my lists, and in many other critics' lists, he will always make the top ten, alongside Townes Van Zandt, Mickey Newbury and the likes.

Ever since I found him, in The Kerrville Kronicles, a fanzine from the UK, and bought two of his CD's, Time and Michael Smith/Love Stories (which includes two of his previous LP's in 1 CD), I have never looked back. I have been playing these two CD's regularly every month for the last ten years. I have never tired of his melodies or his catchy lyrics with lines like:
We all wanted to be existentialists
None of us knew what the hell it meant

Let us go to the banks of the ocean
Where the walls rise above the Zuiderzee
Long ago, I used to be a young man
And dear Margaret remembers that for me

His words never cease to amaze me, and always seem to relive part of my own biography, or make me grow as a man.

His two mentioned studio CD's were stripped versions of his songs, mostly you only heard Smith's magical voice and his guitar, with some background vocal, and a few string instruments. This live CD holds one hour of music, and is a very live production with vocals and lush with Smith's accomplished fingerpicking on the guitar. Audience reaction to Smith's jokes, mostly during the first three cuts, makes the recording a bit too natural for a regular listening.

The CD includes songs that span his whole career, including his best known song The Dutchman, made famous by Steve Goodman and performed by tens, if not hundreds, of singers. It also includes my favorite song I Brought My Father With Me, in a heart breaking version. The lyrics of this great song can be found on the web, and I couldn't help but quote it entirely:
I brought my father with me
I hope that you don't mind
I couldn't find it in me
To make him stay behind
Tonight the snow has fallen
The trees are white & cold
Their heavy branches bending
Can we come in from the cold?

I brought my father with me
Though it's been many years
Since he'd go down to Dolan's
For a shot & a couple of beers
When he'd take me with him
And he'd buy me a coke
It surely made my day
Now I take my father with me
Turnabout's fair play

Car trips to Pennsylvania
When all of us would sing
He sang Bells of St. Mary's
And he sounded just like Bing
Summer days down at the shore
Remembering how he
Would bless himself with foam before
He'd dive into the sea

There are some ways I'm just like him
Some ways he was just like me
And sometimes when the mirror's dim
His face is clear to see
Tonight the winds of heaven
Blow the stars across the sky
I brought my father with me
I couldn't say goodbye

I find it hard to convince my friends to listen to Michael Smith. He's not a performer you can listen to while you talk and appreciate. He doesn't jump into your face at once. It takes a few listenings to really appreciate his music and his humor. But I hope this review does it entices many of you to seek him out.

I think the studio CD's are better than this one, slightly so, if only just because the laughs are sometimes a bit annoying, but not so much as to make you disregard this one. OK, do yourself a favor, buy them all.

I am a happy man today, I have no more time to keep praising this genius, and I am going to listen to this CD non-stop until the end of this year. Enjoy!

Track List:

  • Introduction
  • Sister Clarissa
  • Ballad of Elizabeth Dark
  • The Princess & the Frog
  • Famous in France
  • The Dutchman
  • I Brought My Father with Me
  • Move Over Mr. Gauguin
  • Four Jokes
  • There
  • Something About Big Twist
  • Zippy
  • Honey To the Hive
  • Such Things Are Finely Done

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2003, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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