This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 5/02
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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One of the requirements of any good tale is to not have a telegraphed ending or punchline. One musn't see the conclusion coming. Subterfuge or concealment isn't necessarily a storytelling prerequisite, but writing and delivering so that the reader or listener doesn't cross the finish line first is a must. Christopher Smith has such tale-telling talent.
In "Sweet River Grace," his first adult release, this kindergarten teacher skips to and fro over a variety of subjects and generally provides a clever twist or unseen punch, but all with a sweet delivery.
His most pointed offering is "Mary & Joe." Not until the end of the first verse does one catch on that Smith is singing about the biblical Mary and Joseph. When Joe hogs the covers at night, Mary simply nudges him and says: "Joe, it's your turn to let the donkey out." Throughout this cut, Smith tosses out such lines and phrases as Mary, speaking of her pregnancy, "heaven know where he came from," and having a "little lamb." The song highlights the virtues of Mary and Joe's relationship, concluding with:
"...There's all this waitin' on some saviorThe title cut, "Sweet River Grace," details the sad ending of a relationship:
To come on back and run the show
Well you can keep your son in heaven Lord, send back
Mary and Joe
Just send on back, Mary and Joe..."
"...Sweet River Grace, flow to my door"Perfect World" depicts the wondrous throes of infatuation. Unfortunately, a friend horns in on the relationship and, with a Holden Caulfieldesque last line, Smith sings:
'Cause I can't stay here anymore
Carry me to some restful place
Wash me away, Sweet River Grace..."
"...Bobby couldn't help himselfMale bravado gets a righteous bashing in "On My Cheek." A seventh-grader, back from his first dance, dials up a friend and shares that his date kissed him--on the cheek. Instead of congratulations, his buddy lambastes him for not getting any tongue. Unable to sleep later that night, the rebuked junior high student relates:
He started turnin' on the charm
Soon he was ringin' Lyla's bell
And I was just a false alarm
In a perfect world
A goddamn perfect world..."
"...I savored my insomniaYears later, still thinking about that night, he speaks of his then-friend:
I loved it all the more
The way she kissed me on the cheek
Than if she nailed me on the floor..."
"...There's just one thing I'd like to addThe opening song, "Applesauce," sweetly twines nature's harvest with a more bountiful human one.
To that old phone call from the past
I'm glad she put it on my cheek
And you can stick it up your ass"
Be prepared with "Dead Horse Trampoline"--you'll never view gymnastics in quite the same light again.
Smith possesses a pleasing, if not a booming voice and utilizes a number of talented backing musicians, including two members of The Waybacks: James Nash and Chojo Jacques.
This is simply an enjoyable release. Your life will not be unalterably changed by it but it will be enhanced.
Smith, on vocals, octave mandolin, mandolin and guitar, is backed by Michael Arrow on drums and triangle; John Lester on bass; Chojo Jacques on fiddle and tremolo mandolin, James Nash on mandolin and guitar, Lindalou and Michael Ryge on vocals, Peter Tracy on vocals and guitar, Noah Hammond on harmonica and vocals; Duncan Draper on accordion, keyboard and piano and Klaudia Promessi on saxophone.
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