Grant Maloy Smith – Appalachia – American Stories
If you took a few ounces of Willie Nelson & Jimmie Dale Gilmore, mixed them carefully Grant Maloy Smith would appear. No doubt. On his latest all-original release, the critically-acclaimed Smith has upped the ante in musicianship, arrangement, showcase & overall production. This effort dipped into a more Appalachian songbook, but it doesn’t sound vintage or antiquated. You can hear the care taken on each song as they were crafted.
This set was 3 years in the making & is a follow-up to Grant’s Dust Bowl: American Stories, a Billboard Top 10 that stood 11 weeks on top of the chart. This ambitious release in CD/vinyl format musically is vibrant & as a package, the vinyl box has an impressive full-color 34 pages + cover book, first class.
Despite Grant’s penchant for a big cowboy hat, vintage threads (no, he doesn’t look like Gene Autry or Porter Wagoner) but his distinguished old-fashioned approach, & presentation is flawless as is enjoyable.
The lead-off of Appalachia – American Stories (Suburban Cowboy-Drops June 25) is driven by harpist (Jelly Roll Johnson) on “The Coal Comes Up,” — a compelling Smith song & video. It has muscle, controversy, & traditional Grant Maloy Smith power. It isn’t that Grant got better from his last outing — this effort shows how wide a berth this artist has & confirms his place in Americana music. His diversity & virtuosity is reinforced by his skills as a musician & storyteller.
Grant (acoustic guitar/bass/banjo/dulcimer/mandolin) joins a caliber of players that need no individual mention how stellar each is: Grammy-IBMA winning dobro player Rob Ickes, Grammy-nominated guitarist Trey Hensley, Grammy-winning accordionist Jeff Taylor (+concertina), Grammy-nominated fiddler Matt Combs, 2-time AMC award pedal steel guitarist of the year Mike Johnson, with Frances Cunningham (Bouzouki), Matthew Burgess (drums).
The Rev. Janice Brown (lead vocal), Kim Fleming, Kim Mont (backup-vocals), & Tom Hamilton (organ) on the beautiful spiritual “I Found Faith” is joyous. “Down to Hatchabee Road,” is an ass-kicking dance tune with heavy musical machinery that smokes. It has energy & that good-time feeling the late John Denver infused into “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy.” Smith returns the favor. Simply….great.
“Gas Station Chicken,” is pure Americana that comes close to novelty, but the lyrics are clever in a Roger Miller manner. It’s greasy finger-lickin’ good. More serious & well-written is “Boone’s Five & Dime,” where Grant’s engaging vocal & storytelling is sharp. Jelly Roll Johnson’s harp frames the fanciful musicianship of the others. “In This Twilight,” is a masterpiece. Performed with stunning precision. Love it. Grant’s voice is articulate & expressively powerful.
Grant is bound for Carnegie Hall & Lincoln Center & deservedly so. One day we’ll be talking about how Grant Maloy Smith is a national treasure – like John Prine. I’d be the first to say it’s so.
The 12-song, 43-minute CD was produced by Jeff Silverman & Grant @ https://www.grant-maloy-smith.com/
Color photo courtesy of Grant Maloy Smith.