This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 2/04
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Johnsmith is not related to economist Adam Smith, is not the Smith
of Smith-Corona, nor one of the Smith Brothers of cough drop
fame. He is, luckily for us, an artist producing superb music out
in America's Dairyland, Wisconsin. Getting better and better with each
release, he is a master at starting out a song with a certain subject
and then introducing and tieing in corollary themes. Plus, he writes
and sings of what is truly important: the matters of
Yeah, I know what you are thinking but hold yourself in mid-gag for
this isn't your father's (or mother's) mauldin, mawkish music. And here is the
In a song (Iris Blue) presented to his wife as an anniversary gift,
he sings of their relationship, or any relationship of worth:
"...and could you send along a simple card
no bows or arrows or cupid hearts
something more real, more everyday
something that shows the work it takes..."
Of the different aspects of an artist's life and the ways one is pulled in "Time To Go Home," he sings:
"...sometimes I feel like a clown at the fair
juggling to keep all these balls in the air
there's one for the muse
and one for the road
and the most precious one I call home"
Maybe that one should be retitled "A Portrait of the Artist as a Mature Man."
Another terrific example is his comparison of an aging but functioning tree and a recently widowed
elderly woman. Both still serve paramount and primary purposes. The
despoiled tree provides housing for birds and an owl, shade and calm for humans, while
the widow remains a source of strength to her adult children:
"anchored deep in the truth
holding on, wounded and hurt
but still reaching out for love
because that's what the heart does..."
His spoken song tribute to the late Dave Carter, "Friend Of The
Coyote," succintly captures both the essence and writing style of Carter:
"...he was a whirlin', twirlin', dust devil swirlin' dervish..."
"Yea, he was a dreamer, a weaver, a flat out believer
in in the thread that binds the seam between us..."
In the title song, "Kickin' The Stone," he uses metaphor for the
journey of life. For some, it is too often a labor of Sisyphus while
others dance much more lightly towards the destination. Still, for
most, it is a combination of the two.
"Don't Put Me In A Box" is a plea not to do what we are all too
often guilty of: quickly categorizing people based upon surface impressions.
He closes the release with a spoken word rendition of the two-stanza
Coady poem, "There Are Also Musicians." In the interest of poetic
justice, this majestic yet simple work would be butchered without
printing it in its entirety--so it won't appear here. It amplifies on
the Allison Krauss/Shawn Colvin
line "if there were no music, I would not get through..." This is a
wonderful choice for the concluding cut. It would be worth purchasing
Johnsmith's latest for this piece alone.
Though still early in 2004, this one will rank as one of the top releases this year.
All songs by Johnsmith, unless as noted.
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