Chris Smither / Downpatrick Folk Club

Music is a big deal in Ireland. The place may be renowned for foisting its own folk music on everybody else in the world but such is the discerning population's thirst for quality in music period that over recent years it's all but adopted as its own a handful of great acoustic troubadours from overseas, and king among them all is Chris Smither from New Orleans.

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.

Colin Harper

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks