“Bathed in the flickering glow of passing headlights and neon bar signs, Chris Smither’s roots are as blue as they come. There is plenty of misty Louisiana and Lightnin’ Hopkins in Smither’s weathered singing and unhurried picking. So fine.” – Rolling Stone
There are such things as the cosmic blues. Janis Joplin once recorded a song by that name — she spelled it ‘kosmik’. But Chris Smither lives them, and his cosmic blues are on full display in ‘Hundred Dollar Valentine’, which traces its roots back deep into tradition, anchors its rhythms and textures in today. Smither’s 12th studio disc – released in June of 2012 on Signature Sounds – sports the unmistakable sound he’s made his trademark: fingerpicked acoustic guitar and evocative sonic textures meshed with spare, brilliant songs, delivered in a bone-wise, hard-won voice.
“Smither is an American original, a product of the musical melting pot, and one of the absolute best singer-songwriters in the world.” – Associated Press
From his early days as the hot New Orleans transplant in the Boston folk scene, through his wilderness years, to his reemergence in the 1990s as one of America’s most distinctive acoustic performers, Chris Smither has always been his own man. He has zigged when others have zagged, eschewing sophisticated studio tricks and staying true to his musical vision, surrounding himself with sympathetic musicians ranging from Bonnie Raitt and the late Stephen Bruton to the next-generation kindred spirits with whom he works today.
While it is no surprise that several of his songs have become virtual standards, it is ironic that the assuredly masculine Smither has found favour almost exclusively with female singers: ‘Love You (Me) Like a Man’ has been recorded countless times, with the best known versions by Bonnie Raitt and Diana Krall, ‘Slow Surprise’ by Emmylou Harris and ‘I Feel the Same’ by Raitt, Candi Staton and Esther Phillips among others.
“With a weary, well-traveled voice and a serenely intricate finger-picking style, Mr. Smither turns the blues into songs that accept hard-won lessons and try to make peace with fate.” – New York Times
On Hundred Dollar Valentine, Chris Smither makes music that simultaneously breaks and fortifies one’s heart. It’s music that acknowledges that even as we are together, we are alone. This is music that stares into that absolute abyss and does not lie. This is music that locks its gaze with life and death and does not look away.
“Cast your mind back to the first time you heard Hank Williams, Big Bill Broonzy or JJ Cale and remember how good it felt. Think of the opening encounter with Leon Redbone or Leo Kottke. They say newcomers to Chris Smither’s brand of country blues-tinged southern folk experience those some emotions. It’s true.” – Maverick
8.15 Chris Smither (45)
9.20 Chris Smither (45)
Cecil Sharp House
2 Regent’s Park Road
London NW1 7AY
Walking map from Camden Tube