Chris Smither

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Chris Smither settles into his distinctive combination of folk and blues with this excellent release. Although not pushing established boundaries, his rich, velvety voice and mature spoken-sung vocals convey a sense of truth and add depth to these introspective compositions. A bit of early Tom Waits creeps into his leathery vocals on a jaunty cover of Dave Carter's "Crocodile Man," but Smither is best defined by the fingerpicked folk-blues. Bonnie Raitt, a fan from way back, contributes harmony vocals and slide guitar to his gentle eight-minute version of Dylan's "Desolation Row." Some tunes are percussion-free, providing the singer's honey growl of a voice and clean acoustic guitar the most space to maneuver. Smither is loosest lamenting about his stolen car and its psychological effects on "Let It Go," a track that, with his muttering and grouching, seems to have been recorded in an impromptu moment. A gentle cover of Mississippi John Hurt's "Candy Man" -- the album's only unaccompanied performance -- shows Smither's rather evident roots, and his closing waltz-styled version of Buffalo Springfield's "Kind Woman" reveals less obvious ones. Accompaniment by right-hand man David "Goody" Goodrich, who plays keyboards, guitars, and even something called a pinewood diddley bo, subtly enhances nearly every track on this quiet gem.

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