Handsome and the Humbles — 400 Cigarettes
After testing out a new persona and taking a Southern Gothic detour as the Rev. J. Mikhael Smith with 2020’s Dogwood Winter, Knoxville’s Josh Smith is back with Handsome and the Humbles’ first record in nearly four years. The new EP, 400 Cigarettes, showcases the band’s barroom stomp while tacking on more than a little bit of heartbreak.
Lead track “Wyoming” is a road song crossed with a dancehall weeper about a love that just quite…isn’t – “It was there you said you knew I never loved you/I could not convince myself you were wrong.” The sadness is driven home by a sweet pedal steel line from J. Tom Hnatow. “Good Morning from Nashville” is an appropriately twangy memory of a city where neither music nor love seemed sustainable – “It ain’t easy leaving what you love/Sometimes believing just ain’t enough.”
Even sad songs can move, though. The title track is full of big ol’ guitar riffs, and “All Those Pretty Things” is a crunchy heartland rocker about mismatched expectations – “If none of it was true/You didn’t feel the same.” The most affecting moment on the record, though, comes from Smith’s solo performance of “If I Could.” Recorded for a Roots Down Radio Session, it’s just Smith and his acoustic guitar trying to sort out the aftermath of a busted-up relationship with simple but true-to-life imagery – “Now I’m sitting in the kitchen floor/Trying to sort through what’s mine and what’s yours.” Like most of the EP, “If I Could” gives snapshots of what may have gone wrong, leaving the listener to fill in the details. But as the singer leaves “the letter where you’d leave your keys/It’s the last you’ll ever hear from me,” the end of this love story is sadly not in doubt.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “All Those Pretty Things” – A nice, big guitar solo, with just a hint of Tom Petty in the vocals.
400 Cigarettes was engineered by Kris “Tugboat” Killingsworth and Odell Brummett, mixed by Killingsworth, Brummett and Daniel Markham, and mastered by Brummett. All songs were written by Joshua Mikhael Smith. Musicians on the album include Killingsworth (drums, percussion), Chris Bratta (drums, percussion), Madison Miles (background vocals), J. Tom Hnatow (pedal steel), Tyler Huff (bass), Josh Hutson (guitar) and Jason Chambers (guitar).
400 Cigarettes will be available on February 4th, which is a Bandcamp Friday, when the website collects no fees and over 90% of your money goes straight to the artist: https://handsomeandthehumbles.bandcamp.com/
You can also stream the Handsome and the Humbles album here: