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Chris Smither: 50 Years of Songs! Free Download

July 3, 2014

Chris SmitherChris Smither celebrates 50 years of being a singer/songwriter in style this year. Besides a tour this summer, there are a few gems in the works.

  • “Still on the Levee,” a career-spanning retrospective double CD recorded in New Orleans with special guests such as Allen Toussaint and Loudon Wainwright III, drops July 22.
  • “Lyrics 1966-2012,” a coffee-table book of his complete song catalog, publishes July 22.
  • “Link of Chain,” a tribute album by artists such as Wainwright, Tim O’Brien, Bonnie Raitt, Josh Ritter and Jorma Kaukonen, debuts in September.

You can catch Smither Thursday, July 17, in the intimate Stage Door Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. (Click here for more information on the show.)

Smither, beloved by blues and folk fans, can’t believe it has been 50 years. “Mostly it’s surprising,” he said. “Maybe 20 … that’s what it feels like.” Like many true artists, he never considered being a musician a temporary thing. It’s what he always wanted to do.

The New Orleans native once described his style as “one-third Lightnin’ Hopkins, one-third Mississippi John Hurt and one-third me.” Long popular on the blues scene, Raitt put Smither on the larger music map with her cover of his “Love Me Like a Man” in 1972 on her critically acclaimed “Give It Up” album. The song became a blues standard and a signature song during her shows. Raitt deemed Smither “my Eric Clapton.”

Smither, on the road now, talked about his career and more during a recent interview.

On his songwriting process:

“I tend to work on guitar licks for a long time … and I’ll play them during sound check … nobody cares what you play as long as you doing the check. I get the riffs into coherent chord progress and start scatting against those. I’ll start with nonsense syllables and mumbles, and words or lines will pop out … it’s quite  organic … I never sat down to write something directly.”

On the retrospective “Still on the Levee”:

“Since we wanted to represent all of the stages, I practically had to relearn some of the earlier songs … the recording took three weeks down in New Orleans at The Music Shed … and turns out this is a first installment since we recorded almost 45.” Besides Toussaint and Wainwright, artistis playing on “Still on the Levee” include Smither’s studio mates, The Motivators, Rusty Belle (a band that Smither recommends checking out), Kris Delmhorst and members of Morphine. Smither’s sister Catherine Norr provides a backing vocal, and his daughter Robin plays the fiddle.

Click here to download an mp3 of Smither’s “Train Home” featuring Allen Touissant from “Still on the Levee.”  (To download, click URL and then right-click “save as” to your desktop.)

His favorite musicians to play with:

“I love working with Bonnie Raitt … she’s always great! And John Prine. (His) audiences are made up entirely of Chris Smither fans who don’t know it yet. I don’t get many chances to open shows much these days, but I will always do it for Prine.” Check out Smither’s cover of Prine’s “Leave the Light On.”

On whom he’d love to work with some day:

“Mark Knopfler.”

Get your tickets now for An Evening With Chris Smither on July 17 at Stage Door Theater. Tickets are $22 for this general admission show. Smither’s special guest is singer/songwriter Milton.

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