Prolific writers need an outlet for their vast output, and the independently issued double disc Smartie Mine provides such a channel for Dan Bern. Following closely on the tail of the Ani DiFranco-produced Fifty Eggs (March 1998), Smartie Mine is his second record of the year and fourth in three years. Seemingly aimed at the converted and sold primarily at shows and by mail-order, Bern offers a collection of 21 new originals, three blues classics (plus the Beatles' "Blue Jay Way" added onto the end of "Cocaine Blues"), a duet with Martha Wainwright on her "Baby Love," and new versions of two songs from Fifty Eggs. Like many albums that stretch beyond two hours, Smartie Mine, is a hit and miss affair, though with cuts such as the Dylanesque "Chelsea Hotel," the hilarious and psychotic "Talkin' Woody, Bob, Bruce & Dan Blues," and the Pete Rose, Bart Giamatti/Dan Bern, Martha Wainwright dialogue "Gamblin' With My Love (Pete Rose)," he connects solidly. Musically, Bern and his touring band bring a live, punkish muscle to the songs (check out the superior new version of "Tiger Woods"), but at the same time have the discipline to pull the reins in when necessary. Smartie Mine's length may be a bit daunting for the casual fan, but a small investment of time should reward you with at least one solid disc worth of strong material.
AllMusic Review by Brett Hartenbach
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2