Chris Smither, "Hundred Dollar Valentine" (Signature Sounds)
Wise words pour forth from Chris Smither -- observations and aphorisms, similes and internal rhymes, run-on sentences and concise quips, all in a conversational flow.
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Smither is a New Englander from New Orleans who's hardly new at songwriting, and "Hundred Dollar Valentine" suggests he has mastered the craft.
The careful construction of Smither's lyrics is a thing of beauty and the bedrock of his bluesy folk music. On "Valentine," his 12th studio album and perhaps his best, Smither mulls the meaning of life ("All We Need to Know"), the passage of time ("Place in Line") and current events ("Make Room for Me").
There's a melancholy to much of the material, and as with all great blues, the music serves as a salve. Smither is an excellent acoustic guitarist and first-rate foot-stomper, and the rustic arrangements are nicely augmented by harp, percussion and occasional strings.
When the album's done, a rocking chair creaks on a wooden floor, which sums up the set. Sometimes words aren't needed.
Check this out: "On the Edge" is filled with fatalism, vivid imagery and wry humor. A descending chord progression hints at where we're all headed, and Smither contends it's best to focus on today. "The dance," he sings, "is the thing."