Album: Chris Smither, Time Stands Still (Signature Sounds)

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The Independent Culture

Chris Smither has been steadily releasing classy albums for decades, honing his craft as a songwriter of thoughtful ruminations on and acute observations about life's bitter ironies.

Time Stands Still may be the best release of his career, full of hard-earned insights delivered in his careworn baritone drawl over an immaculately fingerpicked guitar. He wears his cynicism with admirable lightness in songs such as "Call Yourself" – a dig at advisors who, when you're "empty deep inside", will "charge you double just for pointin' out the hole" – and "Surprise, Surprise", his trenchant reflection on trickle-down economics; while elsewhere, he proves unflinchingly self-aware about the appeal of sad songs and solitude in "Someone Like Me", and about the limits of articulacy in "I Told You So". But he's also keenly mindful of the conundrums of desire: "Don't Call Me Stranger" opens the album at a J J Cale canter, with Smither using an alluring outlaw mystique; but it's no sooner faded than the guitar filigree of the title-track is carrying his moving declaration of devotion: "I offered her my body and my soul/I thought in my heart that it would tear me apart, but it made me whole". Recommended to anyone who's enjoyed Dylan's last few albums.

Download this: Don't Call Me Stranger, Time Stands Still, Someone Like Me, Surprise, Surprise, Call Yourself