Chris Smither is one of those ‘quiet’ artists. Quietly passionate, he smolders rather than burns bright. And over the course of his career, he’s quietly built an impressive catalog of consistently high quality, the kind that doesn’t go out of style because it’s quietly outside of trends and prevailing styles.
How old school is Smither? The tapping of his foot is an integral element in the sound here, and his laconic, slightly-slurred vocals are natural and unforced, entirely free of studio ‘correction.’ Drummer Zak Trojano sticks primarily to subdued brush accompaniment, allowing Smither to provide most of the percussive propulsion. Producer and guitarist David 'Goody' Gooderich weaves in and out, embellishing Smither’s fleet finger-picking with subtly rhythmic contributions of his own. Long considered a guitarist’s guitarist, here Smither demonstrates why, with deftly dazzling work that offers an object lesson in exquisite taste.
Lyrical concerns range far and wide. “Don’t Call Me Stranger,” on the surface a plea for love, somehow takes on a much larger perspective, its almost apocalyptic arrangement rendering it more of a metaphysical cry for recognition. The title track examines how love affects our souls, changing who and what we are. “Surprise, Surprise” sounds much like a track from one of Bob Dylan’s last few outings, a pithy and scathing indictment of the ways we allow life to overtake our better intentions. The passing of time is a recurrent theme (despite the disc’s title), looming large in “I Don’t Know” and “Old Man Down,” while the titular track examines the ways in which love completes us.
Covers include a moody “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” (who else but his Bobness could come up with a title like that?), a relatively jaunty (for Smither) “Miner’s Blues” from obscure bluesman Frank Hutchison, and Mark Knopfler’s “Madame Geneva,” lyrically a little out of place but suited to Smither’s gruffly understated delivery.
Smither wastes no time here, dwelling exclusively on the big stuff - life’s lessons, loneliness and loss, love and the state of the soul – tackling everything with a quietly contemplative and genuinely thoughtful approach. It’s not exactly a party platter, but spending a little time with Smither’s music is both rewarding and enriching.