Please note: Advance tickets for this concert are available through Irvington Town Hall Theater box office only.
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Common Ground Concerts presents
at Irvington Town Hall Theater
85 Main Street, Irvington NY
with Jonah Tolchin
“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
For 50 years, Chris Smither has been drawing deeply from the blues, American folk music, modern poets,and philosophers. Reviewers continue to praise his dazzling guitar work, gravelly voice and songwriting. 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.”
What quickly evolved from his New Orleans and Cambridge musical experiences 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 releasing his first record, I’m A Stranger, Too! in 1971, he has released 16 more, the latest being Still On the Levee (2014) – a double-CD retrospective. Recorded in New Orleans at the Music Shed, this career-spanning project features fresh new takes on 24 iconic songs from his vast career – including Devil Got Your Man, the first song he penned, on up to several of his most recent originals.
Over the years, Smither records have featured guest appearances from a who’s who of musical luminaries, including Lowell George, Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt, Tim O’Brien, and Ollabelle, and he has toured with B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Nanci Griffith, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Dave Alvin and Tom Russell, among others.
Coming out at the same time as Still On the Levee, the book Chris Smither Lyrics 1966-2012 features his complete set of lyrics complemented by select images of Chris and performance memorabilia from his decades-long career. To commemorate his career to-date, Signature Sounds is releasing an all-star tribute record including a stellar list of artists offering their takes on some Smither favorites including Josh Ritter, Bonnie Raitt, Loudon Wainwright III, Dave Alvin, Peter Case, Tim O’Brien, Patty Larkin, and many others.
Honing a synthesis of folk and blues for 50 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.”
Singer-songwriter Jonah Tolchin opens the evening. Tolchin’s Americana album Clover Lane was released in 2014 by Yep Roc Records to stunning reviews in both the US an Europe and was charted in the top fifteen folk albums on the Roots Music Report for three months. In August the song “Mockingbird” from Clover Lane was chosen by NPR’s “Heavy Rotation: Ten Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing,” and Spotify named “Diamond Mind” on its list of “2014 Best Songs of the Year.”
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