Live As I'll Ever Be

Chris Smither

Hightone Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The more I listen to Chris Smither, the more I like his music. No, wait, scratch that. The more I listen to Chris Smither, the more I love his music.

If you thought that Smither's last studio release, Drive You Home Again, was a show-stopper, then you've never heard Smither where he's the most comfortable - and that's on a stage. His first live recording, Live As I'll Ever Be, is the next best thing to being in the front row at your local watering hole, listening to Smither pull notes out of his guitar that make it sound like more than one person playing and watching his foot stamp out the rhythm of the song.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Smither is an amazing songwriter and musician, something that was proven to me on Drive You Home Again. But Live As I'll Ever Be just hammers the point home with such incredible force. Tracks like "Hold On I," "Link Of Chain," "Winsome Smile" and his absolutely killer cover of Robert Johnson's "Dust My Broom" make it obvious that this guy should be an absolute superstar. His voice is as rich as a fine whiskey, with enough rough edges to prove he's lived the life he sings about in some of his songs. And his guitar playing? If I didn't know better, I'd have sworn he had a backing guitarist filling in some of the notes. But this disc (recorded around the country and in Ireland over the last few years) is all Smither -- and we should drop to our knees in thanks.

If there's any complaint I have with this disc, it's that it almost seems to be too rich; sometimes, listening to the entire disc in one sitting is like eating the whole chocolate cake while barely stopping to breathe. Let this disc be your guilty pleasure; at least you don't have to hit the treadmill after listening to it.

Smither even manages to bring life into a song I thought needed a little trimming off Drive You Home Again -- namely, "No Love Today." His explanation about the root of a part of the song actually made me understand why he used the New Orleans horns on the studio version of the song. (Actually, I take my last comment back -- my only complaint with this disc is that I honestly wish there had been more examples of Smither telling the audience a little history about the songs.

So why isn't Smither a superstar, besides the fact that well-written, well-played folk music isn't something the kids can slam dance to? I don't know, but I do know that if there were any justice in this world, Smither would be as acclaimed a songwriter and musician as someone like Bob Dylan.

Live As I'll Ever Be is a disc that does the unthinkable -- it tops a disc which was just as good. Smither deserves a far better fate than to be folk music's best kept secret -- and this disc is just the megaphone he needs to get his messages across.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hightone Records, and is used for informational purposes only.