With his intricate finger-picking style, singular guitar sound, rhythmic foot-tapping, and well-traveled voice, American folk and blues singer, guitarist, and songwriter Chris Smither’s “roots are as blue as they come” (Rolling Stone). With a prolific career spanning the decades, his latest release in March 2018, Call Me Lucky, is a stunning collection of both originals and reimagined classics.—
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Born in Miami during World War II, Chris Smither grew up in New Orleans where he first started playing music as a child. The son of a Tulane University professor, he was taught the rudiments of instrumentation by his uncle on his mother’s ukulele. In the mid-‘60s and while in his early twenties, Smither turned his back on his anthropology studies and headed to Boston—where acoustic music thrived in the streets and coffeehouses—at the urging of legendary folk singer Eric von Schmidt. Smither forged lifelong friendships with many musicians, including Bonnie Raitt, who went on to record his songs Love You Like A Man and I Feel the Same. From his New Orleans and Cambridge musical experiences quickly evolved his enduring, singular guitar sound—beat-driven, finger-picking, and strongly influenced by the playing of Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin’ Hopkins, layered over the ever-present backbeat of his rhythmic, tapping feet, which are always miked in performance.
By the early '90s, Smither’s steady nationwide touring and regular release of consistently acclaimed albums cemented his reputation as one of the finest acoustic musicians in the country. His 1991 album, Another Way to Find You, was recorded live in front of an in-studio audience with no overdubs or second takes. His next recording, Happier Blue, was embraced by Triple A radio and received the NAIRD (now AFIM) award as Best Folk Recording of 1993. Up On The Lowdown (1995) rode the crest of the newly formed Americana radio format wave and sparked considerable interest abroad. A tour of Australia with Dave Alvin and extensive solo touring in Europe led to an expanding global interest in Smither. His song, I Am the Ride, from this album inspired the independent film, The Ride, for which Smither also composed the original score.
In early 1997 Smither released Small Revelations. It climbed the Americana and Triple A radio charts and led to concert dates with B.B. King, Raitt, Nanci Griffith, and the hugely successful original Monsters of Folk tour with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Dave Alvin, and Tom Russell. Small Revelations also generated several film projects for Smither. Emmylou Harris recorded his song, Slow Surprise, for The Horse Whisperer soundtrack on MCA.
Drive You Home Again (1999) garnered four stars from Rolling Stone and with it, Smither continued to tour worldwide. Shortly after, Smither released his one-man-tour-de-force, Live As I’ll Ever Be (2000). Recorded in concert at various clubs and concert halls in California, Dublin, Galway, Boston, and Washington DC, it has proven to be a fan favorite.
Train Home (2003) was Smither’s last record for HighTone and his first with producer David Goodrich. Over a six-week period, basic tracks for Train Home were recorded in the relaxed environment of Smither’s home near Boston. Working with new session musicians, the record is simultaneously sparse and assured. Raitt graciously provided backing vocals and slide guitar on Smither’s cover of Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row. Smither’s Seems So Real from this album earned a Folk Alliance Award as “Song of the Year.”
Hundred Dollar Valentine (2012) is a studio record of all Smither-penned songs. With long-time producer David “Goody” Goodrich at the helm, this collection sported Smither’s trademark acoustic guitar sound and evocative sonic textures meshed with spare, brilliant songs, delivered in a bone-wise, hard-won voice. In 2014 Smither released Still on the Levee, a career-spanning project that features fresh new takes on 24 iconic songs from his vast career and some very special guests, including the legendary Allen Toussaint and Loudon Wainwright III.
In March 2018, Smither released his 18th record, Call Me Lucky, once again teaming up with producer and multi-instrumentalist David Goodrich. Also joined by Billy Conway (Morphine) and Matt Lorenz (The Suitcase Junket), Smither recorded eight new originals along with some very special and surprising covers.
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