A genuinely heartfelt accolade for a songwriter’s songwriter
I think it’s fair to say that albums like this are generally forgettable after a couple of plays; but this celebration of Chris Smither’s 70th birthday and 50 years in the music business has quite a few gems tucked away in the corners.
As a fan of Dave Alvin’s I was probably always going to like his interpretation of the title track Link of Chain and I do, a lot; but I can’t say the same of Louden Wainwright’s take on A Place in Line which has a rolling piano backing and jaunty drum beat, yet somehow manages to sound like a Faces’ out-take; you know the ones not sung by Rod Stewart.
An avid interpreter of songs, Mary Gauthier somehow makes I Feel The Same sound both smoky and sexy; which are two words never associated with the original.
Chris Smither is one of those songwriters whose work seeps out into record collections without the recognition that he probably deserves; most notably Can’t Shake these Blues which Eilen Jewell treats quite faithfully, although her voice could never be mistaken for Chris’s and Heather Maloney’s sweet rendition of Call Yourself proves that great songwriting crosses all boundaries.
For what it’s worth; and this is probably down to personal taste, a couple of songs don’t appear to ‘work;’ most noticeably Aoife O’Donovan turning Small Revelations into a mournful Celtic lament and Tim O’Brien’s New Orleans meets Bluegrass mish-mash on Origin of the Species is just awful as is the Ragtime No Love Today by Paul Cebar; but there are also pleasant surprises aplenty with Josh Ritter finding something deep inside Rosalie that nearly brought tears to my eyes.
To those who know Chris Smither’s work no tribute would be complete without Bonnie Raitt singing Love Me Like a Man; and this live version with a personal love letter intro to the writer, should surely have opened or closed the album; or do I take these things too seriously?
If nothing else many completest fans of the artists here will hopefully delve into Chris Smithers back catalogue and discover a Master Craftsman of a songwriter.