Chris Smither Biography

11 November 1944, Miami, Florida, USA. Smither’s smooth, lyrical guitar style encompasses elements of folk, blues, country and rock (Bonnie Raitt calls him ‘her Eric Clapton’), and he plays in a fluid, busy style that is as breathtaking as it is effortless. His voice is another asset, capable of sounding soft one minute and gruff the next.

Smither began his music career during the 60s, performing in the coffee houses and clubs of New Orleans, where he had lived from the age of two. His first real blues influence was a Lightnin’ Hopkins recording, Blues In My Bottle, which he heard when he was 17. He moved to Boston, Massachusetts, in 1966, where he continued playing the lucrative coffee house/folk circuit, and began associating with artists such as Bonnie Raitt, John Hammond and Mississippi Fred MacDowell. After a promising start, with two albums in the early 70s on Poppy Records, the label folded. He recorded Honeysuckle Dog for United Artists Records, which featured Raitt, but this album was never released at the time (it eventually surfaced in 2004).

Having fought off the demon alcohol in a largely barren period, Smither faced the 90s as a survivor, fresh and enthusiastic towards his work. The live Another Way To Find You was recorded over two nights in a studio with an invited audience. 1993’s Happier Blue showed the artist truly coming into his own. This excellent set included cover versions of Little Feat’s ‘Rock And Roll Doctor’ and J.J. Cale’s ‘Magnolia’, in addition to the original title track. The powerful lyric of the latter provided but one example of Smither’s emotional talent: ‘I was sad and then I loved you, it took my breath, now I think you love me and it scares me to death, cause now I lie awake and wonder, I worry I think about losing you, I don’t care what you say, maybe I was happier blue’. The artist’s floor-rumbling bass resonance was given a perfect demonstration on an interpretation of Jesse Winchester’s ‘Thanks To You’. Drives You Home Again was a disappointing follow-up, but Smither’s first studio album of the new millennium (Train Home) marked a return to somewhere near his best form.

Smither has enjoyed greater success with cover versions of his songs by numerous performers, including Raitt, who included his ‘Love Me Like A Man’ and ‘I Feel The Same’ on two of her albums, and John Mayall, who recorded ‘Mail Order Mystics’. He has performed at various times with many musicians including Nanci Griffith, Jackson Browne, Van Morrison, and also at numerous major festivals throughout the USA. Smither is most at home playing to a small audience in a club setting. His expressive voice creates an atmosphere that halts chatter and clinking glasses. This is superbly highlighted on 2000’s Live As I’ll Ever Be.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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