Review by Fred Rudofsky
Calling Chris Smither a singer-songwriter is a misnomer – he is a entertaining sage, a metaphysician on acoustic guitar, diagnosing what ails mankind and offering some relief but no easy answers in his unique songs. His solo show at The Linda – featuring 18 songs from throughout his remarkable career – was a clinic in blues power and the honesty of a good song.
Appropriately, Smither started off with the entreaty of “Open Up” from “Leave the Light On.” The sizeable crowd was drawn in by his gritty voice and deft finger-picking, and many feet were tapping along when he moved on to “Lola” (not the Kinks song, just so you know).
“Hundred Dollar Valentine,” his new album for Signature Sounds, ranks among Smither’s best albums, and enthusiastically he showcased several songs from it. “Make a Little Room for Me” took wry yet eerie jabs at religious hypocrisy, climate-change deniers, and rapacious CEOs and their political lapdogs who have the system rigged (“To keep us all free, they’re going to put us in a cage/ With a fence on the border to maintain order and the minimum wage”). The title cut voiced the yearning for a lover to come home, while “On the Edge,” which Smither deemed a “hopeful song” (with a melody hinting at the chordal melancholy of Skip James’ “I’m So Glad”) argued how “it’s never too late to take a stand”, no matter how liminal one’s life may seem. And in three verses, “What It Might Have Been” captured that moment when both sides in an affair realize the passion is gone, and it is time to walk away.