When you first see Chris Smither step onto the stage, you feel awkward and curious, because, well, he's a very tall, awkward white guy and you've heard he can write and sing blues and you think "no way." His facial expressions and body language make you feel like he must be really uncomfortable to be there and you almost feel sorry for him. You've heard he's over fifty and has been doing this for many years, but something about his manner makes you think he's fifteen and stepping on stage for the first time.
Then he picks up the guitar and starts playing. Your doubts about his talent disappear as you are whisked away into his elaborate blues riffs and rhythms paired with lyrics that are intelligent and witty, if you are paying attention.
This alone would make attending a Chris Smither performance a treat. But then, after a song or two, you realize something in his demeanor has shifted and he no longer seems tense. In fact, it seems as if you have been invited into the living room of an old friend and he is happy to see you. He's laid back and relaxed and sharing his soul with ease as he tells the tales of the songs he has written and the places they have taken him. If you close your eyes, his deep and soothing voice, laced with his native Cajun cadence, could make you believe you're listening to an eighty year old black man instead of a 50 something Caucasian.
Here is my all time favorite Chris Smither song. Perhaps because of the story he tells about the traveling produce man, or perhaps because the truth "you can't buy it off a shelf, you've got to grow it from a seed" stands the test of time.
And in case you've never heard of a "mirliton" here's what they look like. Quite tasty too!
My second favorite Smither song is "What They Say" More for the clever turns of phrase than the music, but that's how I roll. You can listen to it hear and see what resonates with you:
Or read these awesome phrases and see how you're feeling today. I'll say, it's a relief to know "I'm too old to die young"
They say the good die young but it ain't for certain I bin good all day. I ain't hurtin'. Not in any way. I'm too old to die young.
I shouldn't talk too loud. Bad luck is preying on the proud ones. There's nothin' like lying in a graveyard To teach you to hold your tongue.
They say the Devil was an angel back in the beginnin' So was I. Nobody's pinnin' any hopes on me. I ain't sayin' that they ought'a.
I didn't wanna change but the road kept slidin' in a funny way And I kept ridin' on it anyway. Sometimes you do what you gott'a.
What they say. What they do. They'll swear it is. They'll think it's true. When they think at all but they ain't willin'. If they cain't think of what to say, they talk anyway. It's all cliché, fast food for the brain but not too fillin'.
They say time and tide will wait for no-one. The time it takes one tide to go one time Around the world would leave you spinnin' But the race is on between the tide And the people livin' right beside it. No-one's drownin' yet but they ain't winnin'.
If words were wisdom, we'd all speak And smarten up from week to week Just sayin' "live and learn". There's nothin' to it.
Friends in need are friends indeed But the friends who think of what we need They hardly talk at all. They just do it. They hardly talk at all. They just do it.
Finally, here is a fifteen song collection on YouTube, complete with some guitar riff instruction videos so you can play like Chris Smither if you are so inspired.