Acoustic Sounds Café
Hightone Records recording artist Chris Smither is a singer-songwriter who fulfills the promise of the songwriting craft as few people can. His show last Friday was nothing less than a celebration of good songs.
With a weathered voice, a bright blue guitar and his stomping left foot for a drummer, he captivated the near-capacity crowd with two sets of great original music and a slew of time-honored cover tunes. Highlights among his originals included the wistful title track to his latest CD, “Train Home,” which was introduced as a “gospel song for the skeptical.” The hilariously conflicted “Let It Go” was a very well-received story of a stolen car and the wounded pride that accompanied it.
Smither’s choices for cover tunes, whether they were newer material like Dave Carter’s clever “Crocodile Man,” or classics like “Sitting on Top of the World” or Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row,” all lived up to the lofty standards of his own songs.
Lyrically, Smither is poignant and poetic. Melodically, he’s got enough hooks to open a chain of bait shops: His songs can run like a tape loop in your head. His delivery is wry and soulful, full of self-deprecating humor, and sung with an “aw-shucks” ease that belies the depth of his work. Perhaps most amazingly, the creative impact of the songs almost overshadows Smither’s talent as a guitarist. Almost. His dexterous lead runs and propulsive rhythms serve his songs with precision and complementary grace.
Taken as a whole, Smither is an accessible, engaging, master craftsman, and not a soul left his performance in Little Rock not knowing it.
The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra opened its season Saturday night with a return visit by the 28-year-old violin virtuoso Augustin Hadelich, who had appeared with the orchestra in the Beethoven concerto two years ago.
Also, Red Octopus at the Public Theater, Alcee Chriss III at First Presbyterian Church, Harvestfest in Hillcrest, the Arkansas Times Hog Roast, Wildflower Revue at South on Main and Made By Few in Bentonville.