Fred Smith

Independent release, 2017

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


After perusing several year-end lists and seeing Fred Smith's name pop up on those I consider to have excellent taste in music, I knew I needed to devote some time to his new double disc, Great. A diplomat for many years who worked with peace-keeping operations, Smith isn't too far off from that life in his songs, as he provides fun, clever storytelling through his timeless tunes. Great my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 is actually two very different discs; while disc one is primarily folk and country balladry, the second is Fred Smith unleashed, where anything goes and often does.

It's nearly impossible to discuss the highlights on disc one, because, well, each song is a gem. “Some Lovers” starts the listen off with harmonicas and banjo plucking, sounding not far off from any number of ex-punks heading into folk rock (e.g. The City And Colour), while subsequent songs “Little Jimmy Boy” and “Wind And Wind” are acoustic strummers with historic storytelling. Smith's crisp voice is occasionally joined by lovely female pipes and pianos.

Fuller songs like the country rock of “Texas” and the jazz lounge feel (and stand-up bass) of “Raggedy Anne” show much diversity in Smith's arsenal, but the serene, lullaby feel of “Emily Rose” is Smith at his finest. A simple offering with warm melody and straightforward prose, the song –  and the album itself really – makes a lasting impression with a basic approach.

Now, disc two is a different story. Here, Smith channels his inner Fred Schneider, but only after “What Could Go Wrong,” which very eloquently and sometimes humorously sums up Trump's first few months in office. From there, it's a grab bag of sounds, form the funky “Nice To Meet You,” the falsetto, pop-weirdness of “My Girlfriend,” and the horns and ska-friendly “Backwoods Bum.”

An Australian who has spent plenty of time in The United States, Smith certainly knows much about American life and even more about how to pen 20+ songs that ruminate around the mind like a great Billy Bragg tune. Smith was being far too modest if he titled this after the quality of his song craft; a far more accurate title would have been “simply fantastic.”

Rating: A

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