Jon Brooks, with Fred Gillen, Jr.
- Common Ground Coffeehouse at the First Unitarian Society of Westchester, Hastings-on-Hudson NY
“Smither is an American original - a product of the musical melting pot and one of the absolute best singer-songwriters in the world."—Associated Press
A profound songwriter, Chris Smither draws deeply from the blues, American folk music, modern poets, and philosophers. Reviewers continue to praise his dazzling guitar work, gravelly voice and songwriting.
Born in Miami, during World War II, Chris Smither grew up in New Orleans where he first started playing music as a child. The son of a Tulane University professor, he was taught the rudiments of instrumentation by his uncle on his mother's ukulele. "Uncle Howard,” Smither says, “showed me that if you knew three chords, you could play a lot of the songs you heard on the radio. And if you knew four chords, you could pretty much rule the world." With that bit of knowledge under his belt, he was hooked. "I'd loved acoustic music - specifically the blues - ever since I first heard Lightnin' Hopkins' Blues In My Bottle album. I couldn't believe the sound Hopkins got. At first I thought it was two guys playing guitar. My style, to a degree, came out of trying to imitate that sound I heard."
In his early twenties, Smither turned his back on his anthropology studies and headed to Boston at the urging of legendary folk singer Eric von Schmidt. It was the mid-'60s and acoustic music thrived in the streets and coffeehouses there. Smither forged lifelong friendships with many musicians, including Bonnie Raitt who went on to record his songs, "Love Me Like A Man" and “I Feel the Same. (Their friendship has endured with Bonnie guest-appearing on Smither’s record Train Home and, more recently, she invited him to support one of her dates on her current Slipstream tour.)
What quickly evolved from his New Orleans and Cambridge musical experiences/influence is his enduring, singular guitar sound – a beat-driven finger-picking, strongly influenced by the playing of Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin’ Hopkins, layered over the ever-present backbeat of his rhythmic, tapping feet (always mic’d in performance).
Since the release of his first albums (I'm A Stranger, Too! (1971) and Don't It Drag On (1972), Smither’s steady nationwide touring and the regular release of consistently acclaimed albums has cemented his reputation as one of the finest acoustic musicians in the country. His most recent recording, Hundred Dollar Valentine, is a studio record of all Smither-penned songs -- a first for him. With longtime producer David “Goody” Goodrich at the helm, this newest collection sports the unmistakable sound Smither has made his trademark: finger picked acoustic guitar and evocative sonic textures meshed with spare, brilliant songs, delivered in a bone-wise, hard-won voice.
Honing a synthesis of folk and blues for more than 40 years, Chris Smither is truly an American original. As Acoustic Guitar magazine wrote, Smither sings about “the big things - life, love, loss - in a penetrating and poetic yet unpretentious way.” And with Hundred Dollar Valentine, he’s at it again.
Opening the show is Milton, the modern-day troubadour with the distinctive voice and one-name moniker. Meet Milton and you will meet a tall, bookish optimist who will tell you about the “heavy” new group that he heard in a club last night and the old folk recording he listened to this morning with equal enthusiasm. The folksinger has developed a grassroots following for the warmth and spontaneity of his live shows, with a playlist that includes traditional folk, blues and country songs with old time harmonies. Earning comparisons to many of his heroes—Van Morrison, Nick Lowe, The Band—singer-songwriter Milton has distinguished himself with his unique voice and lyrics, a compelling mix of grit and grammar.
Common Ground Community Concerts is a grassroots music production and event planning organization based in Westchester County NY. For the past 13 years, Common Ground has produced its flagship Common Ground Coffeehouse series, sponsored by (and hosted by) The First Unitarian Society of Westchester, in Hastings-on-Hudson NY.
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