Drive You Home Again
Hightone Records, 1999
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/31/1999
Ever pick up an album that you expected to hate, though you couldn't give one good reason why you felt that way? Believe me, in over a decade of reviewing music, I've often grabbed an album from the Inbox, and said to myself, "Boy, this is gonna be a bad experience."
Sometimes, though, my first impressions are terribly wrong. In
the case of Chris Smither and his latest release
Drive You Home Again, my expectations were totally off-base,
and it turned out that I not only liked this country-folk disc, I
Smither has two things going for him: the power of being a good songwriter and the voice of life's experiences. Put these two things together, and you can literally see the sparks of magic fly. Just the title track alone is proof enough of the magic that Smither possesses in his vocals and acoustic guitar work.
Now, there are some touches I could have lived without, such as the New Orleans funeral-style horns at the start of "No Love Today", which provide 30 seconds that almost ruin one helluva great song. Fortunately for Smither, these moments are few and far between.
The backing band that provides structure to these songs (including Stephen Bruton, who will soon be getting his own turn in the spotlight on "The Daily Vault") is a wise and wide collection of talented musicans, all who seem to click perfectly with Smither's style of folk. A track like "Hey Hey Hey" could have easily been ruined by a backing band who wanted to take a harder edge to the song in the opening seconds. Fortunately for Smither (and for us as the listeners), the musicians treat the music with the respect that is due for it.
For the most part, Drive You Home Again hits the listener with winner after winner. From tracks like "Steel Guitar" (which, I'll admit, has to grow on you) and "Don't Make Promises" ( damn, I love this song!) to "Hold On II" and "So Long", Smither is in what some would call "the zone", and the end result is incredible.
Don't be scared off by a label like "country-folk"; the fact is, the music that Smither creates transcends all of these genres, and is one that can be enjoyed and appreciated by anyone and everyone. Drive You Home Again is an album that should win Smither a wider fan base, and should spark a serious interest in his entire discography. Don't let Drive You Home Again pass you in the carpool lane; make sure you've checked this one out for yourself.
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