Pierce Turner's career may have been dogged by constant comparisons to both Van Morrison and Elvis Costello -- and his label doesn't help any by mentioning them both prominently on the cover sticker for this effort, an American compilation drawing on recent releases such as 3 Minute World and the Action EP. The comparison's accurate enough, though, in that the likelihood that Mr. Smith will connect with a listener likely has something to do with the enjoyment said listener would get from either of those two forebears. There's passionate singing, lush orchestrations, and quick, rocking, and rollicking arrangements, not to mention specific invocations of Turner's home country (thus "Oh Ireland," the album's second song). This is the type of thing that can grate when handled poorly -- and there are plenty of candidates for that role -- but Turner and his various collaborators, including string co-arranger Fred Parcells and rhythm section John Conte and Michael Dawe, find just enough of a subtle grace to make it work well on its own merits. "Mr. Smith" itself starts the album off well enough with a crisp, sharp performance that sets the tone well for the rest of the collection. Not everything works -- songs like "Hypocrisy" come across a touch strident and slow -- but all in all it's still a pleasant collection. As a slightly bemusing bonus, Mr. Smith includes the contents of the Dramatic Instrumentals EP, which aims at being exactly what it says it is -- short, suggestive songs that try well to live up to such titles as "Rolling Hills" and "Green Fields," not to mention "Ominous."
Mr. Smith Review
by Ned Raggett