Chris Smither / Downpatrick Folk Club
Friday 06 June 1997
Now effectively in his second career, after a 10-year spell of floundering in alcoholism between his early 1970s output and the stream of records he's produced since 1985, Smither's reputation has never been higher and yet his perspective on life remains hallmarked with the kind of humility and stoicism brought through years of hard times and hurt. Still revelling in the influences of his early heroes, Lightnin' Hopkins and Mississippi John Hurt, Smither has expanded, with his own writing, the straight blues form to something entirely unique. The most remarkable thing is not that his material can explore the darkeremotions in life with an everyman relevance, but that essentially the man remains an entertainer - a fun guy with a not-so-fun past, who can confidently work a crowd through foot- stomping medleys of "Hi Heel Sneakers / Big Boss Man" to some of the most heart-breaking, profound songs they're ever likely to hear.
Tonight's show is a weird one - the only English-style "best of order" folk club in the North, and yet Smither's most boisterous crowd on this particular trip. Half of the 28 song set are well chosen covers - from John Hiatt, Lowell George, JJ Cale and a blistering resurrection of Robert Johnson's old warhorse "Dust My Broom" - all scattered around the unwritten set list to hold people's attention with feisty guitar work, amplified doublefoot percussion and something even the more casual punters would know. The barnstorming "Love You Like a Man", memorably covered by Bonnie Raitt, and "written when I was 21, young enough to think I knew about women - now it's just a nostalgia piece..." commands attention, but it's the more serious material that singles Smither out from his peers.
Surely nothing more insightful about the processes of fame has been written than "The Devil's Real", while "Cave Man", from the brand new Small Revelations, remains a work of overwhelming profundity on the human condition, clothed in the simplest and gentlest of melodies. His writing gets better and better, and while it has long outgrown the confines of 12 bars there is no one truer to the spirit of the blues, or more attuned to the struggles of the soul in the modem world, than Chris Smither. He ends the noisiest of gigs with the noisiest of encores, shakes hands, signs records, and looks forward to playing support to a partial reformation of The Yardbirds in a small town to the west of the island. Apparently it's a good payer. And life goes on.
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 The top 50 cities for young people to live in
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
The C-Word - review: Sheridan Smith shines in a warm, honest adaptation of Lisa Lynch's book about living with cancer
X-Men Apocalypse: First look at Jubilee and Jean Grey played by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner
American Horror Story: Hotel Angela Bassett set to make 'lots of trouble' with Lady Gaga in season 5
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 4 - review: Sansa is in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous Six: Make-up 'used to darken skin of actors to make them look Native American'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils