This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 2/02
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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If he keeps this trend going then the anonymity that comes from being a folk singer, especially one surnamed smith, will be lost. Well, maybe that's the idea.
This third release from Wisconsin singer-songwriter Johnsmith is a celebration of the journey of life. And per smith, it is recognizing and enjoying the simple richness of that day-to-day trek that is most critical. However important a destination may be, it will be resolved if the pathway has truly been fruitful.
This offering contains songs and instrumentation inspired by a recent trip to Ireland, but remains a musical motif of his philosophy of life. Lyrics from the last two cuts, the title song, "Traveler," and "Heart Wide Open," grandly sum up his guiding light:
The infectiously engaging chorus in "Traveler" goes:
"Oh, I am, I am, I am only a travelerIn "Heart Wide Open," he sings:
I am, I am, I am only a traveler."
"I wanna take every breath"I Will Fly" declares that spiritual connections remain despite our physical departure from this earthly setting.
Like it's the last one I'm gonna get
I want to release every regret
Let go of the pain and forgive
I wanna know what it's like to live
With my heart wide open"
To a drum backing similar to a military tune, "Love's Worth Fighting For" is a simple but profound declaration:
"...Here's to all us soldiersIn the midst of a rocky relationship, a solo traipse of the Appalachian Trail becomes therapeutic for the protagonist in the gorgeous "Appalachian Rain." Smith sings:
On the field of love
Who've laid down our defenses and have chosen not to run...
We have been all cowards
and in our foolishness
Like Judas with his silver we've betrayed love with a kiss
But love gives second chances
Love is not a judge
Love will never tell us we are not good enough..."
"...I would gladly walk from Georgia, all the way to MaineThe subject matter here could have easily ended up banal and hackneyed in lesser hands. Getting better with each release, smith displays a talent for genuinely and melodiously presenting his words and music.
I would cross the creeks and the mountain peaks
Whispering your name
And if you asked me I would do this, I would go and not complain
But this walk's for me, to find my peace
in the Appalachian rain..."
Mark it down. "Traveler" will end up being one of the top releases of 2002.
smith, on vocals and guitar, is assisted by Chris Rosser on bass, piano, 12-string guitar, harmonium, Wurlitzer piano, cittern, percussion, and organ; Joe Ebel on electric guitar, slide electric guitar and 5-string violin; Beth Magill on penny whistle; Don Porterfield on fretless bass; Elliot Wadopian on upright bass; River Guerguerian on percussion; Tony Creasman on drums, tambourine and percussion; Dan Sebranek on guitar and harmony vocal; and Kristin DeWitt, Tom Prasado-Rao, Tom Kimmel, Pierce Pettis, Shi-Anne Ragsdale, Lynn Rosser, Buddy Mondlock, Anne Lalley, Elisi Rae Smith and Sally Barris on harmony vocals.
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