While Sean Smith has performed with plenty of fellow experimental folk obsessives over the years, as well as in a larger group context elsewhere thanks to his joining the band Citay, Eternal was the first time the San Francisco-based performer had released a solo effort that was also in effect a showcase for performances with fellow musicians, seven songs ranging from the short and sweetly immediate to among his most exploratory work yet. An example of the former quality can be seen with "Holly," at once one of his most sweetly tender songs, guitar matched by Angela Hsu's violin, and one of his most rock-out moments yet, squalling feedback crunching into a full-band arrangement that then settles back into the original style. Meanwhile, the bright open stomp and clap of "Palak Paneer," with Smith and friends Fletcher Tucker and Adam Snider kicking up an enjoyable ruckus that's more Appalachian than raga, and the mysterious yet somehow funny -- even goofy -- "Goat Seer" let Smith and Snider have a quirky blast. On a more straightforwardly moody front is a song like "Prompter of Conscience," with Smith solo combining organ and Weissenborn to create a contemplative drone-based short piece. The immediately following "Greetings Death Love (Excerpts)," the album's closing track, lets Smith again work solo and simply with guitar, an open-ended acoustic composition that is perhaps the most open nod to Smith's roots in the world of performers like John Fahey. At the same time there's a calm, easy appeal to the piece that might be more immediate for some that find Fahey's work too cryptic on first blush, a handy bridge of styles.
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