Hundred Dollar Valentine

Smither Chris

Hundred Dollar Valentine
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Hundred Dollar Valentine

Smither Chris

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.

Smither’s cosmic blues are on full display in Hundred Dollar Valentine, a brilliant amalgam made of equal parts past, present and future. It is music that traces its roots back deep into tradition, anchors its rhythms and textures in today, and reaches forward into the future, asking the Big Questions — why am I here? Is there purpose to all of this or is it just a spinning cascade of random moments?

And he does it all with six strings, an insistent, understated groove and a sly wink — letting you know that we may all enter and leave this world alone, but that don’t mean we can’t have a good time while we’re here. Hundred Dollar Valentine, Smither’s 12th studio disc, due out June 19, 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.

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.

Review

smither1The first thing that strikes you when listening to Hundred Dollar Valentine is just how much the feel and tone is steeped in the past, yet also manages to sound so in the now.

Smither has delivered a traditional roots-laden album with rhythms and vibes anchored in today. Since the 60s he’s been giving us sparse songs of love, longing and loss delivered in his world weary voice, with his trademark and unmistakable acoustic guitar. Amazingly this is his first album of self-penned tunes, of which the conversational hymn-like ‘On the Edge’ is a highlight.


Lou Fulco works as a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.

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