Stephan Smith

Now's the Time

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This is a refreshing blast back to the Woody Guthrie and Ramblin' Jack Elliott brand of folk singer. Coincidence or not, in some of the photos he bears a very striking resemblance and almost has the same type of swagger as Bob Dylan circa the very first albums. He sings, as did these others, with a nasal quality to his voice (which also has a soothing quality). Combined with the pictures and the fact that his singing is accompanied only guitar, harmonica and banjo, he seems very much taken by these icons. With all of that, and the fact that his songs are basically about making the world a better place for us all to live, there is still something refreshing about his take on it all. It is not an original disc, but the songs carry some weight. He even makes the liner notes -- which are deliberately vague (one can only assume it is him playing the instruments on the disc) and uninformative about the disc -- have an aura of forced mysteriousness. The songs are quite varied in their sound so the disc never gets dull or repetitive. He has a novel way of looking at things and his songs reflect this -- there is an engaging, fresh quality to his work. There is potential here, but he has to find his way out from the shadows of his forebears and emerge into the spotlight.

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