Christopher Smith is both craftsman and artist. Too often these days we get caught up in such definitions and usually there is a difference, but like the sculptor who creates incredible beauty out of blocks of wood and stone, so does Smith with his music. And with Smith, there are stories beneath it all. Interesting and amusing stories of life and people, not unlike the folksingers of the recent past and present—John Prine, Steve Goodman, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Russell.
His subjects range from a birth on a train (California Zephyr), an upbeat folk/swing number which allows his stable of sidemen full rein (and they take full advantage), to a murder ballad (Home To Jesse), to an irreverent look at Catholic girls which should have you laughing (Sacred Heart, and didn't we all dream…) and all points between, mostly with sense of humor matched by his quick turn of phrase. While some musicians write lyrics, Smith writes musical short stories, and writes them well.
There is a touch of ragtime in some of the songs, some country, some swing, a whole lot of folk—the title track, Gravedigger's Boy, for example, nods very slightly in sound and feel to an old English waltz. It is acoustic and proud of it, but don't let that throw you. It is good stuff and played with the touch of the masters (in other words, these guys can play! Every damn one of them!). Huge pats on the back, though, to Chojo Jacques, whose fiddle raises the musical bar, and Arthur Lee Land, who plays lead guitar with incredibly deft touch.
The man here, though, is Christopher Smith. The upbeat Take Me Back Delilah and somber Home To Jesse (oddly enough, also upbeat, if somber and upbeat can be used to describe the same thing) gives Smith his own chance to shine. A little guitar, a little bass, a lot of banjo—all Smith and all very impressive, indeed.
And the comparisons continue going through my head—Jim Ringer, Jim Post, Townes Van Zandt… Good company, indeed.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Website design by David N. Pyles