David G Smith – Witness Trees
This 11-cut assembly of tunes is David G Smith’s (vocals/piano/acoustic guitars/resonator) 11th LP. The subjects are typical – equality, love, death & legacy. Smith is adept at constructing likable songs & has worked with top-tier artists like Keb’ Mo’ & Mary Gauthier.
This particular LP turns away from the blues/roots-driven links Smith is known for. He goes more story-driven folk rock & covers the basic folk topics that were tied to the 60s as well. Resistance seems to still be evident. Even what’s logical & what’s believed sensible — all challenged.
David brings certain ideals to the surface for closer examination. Produced by Neilson Hubbard (drums/percussion/bgv) in Nashville Witness Trees (Drops June 2–Independent) comes in a well-printed 6-panel design with lyrics included. The only witness tree I saw was the legendary one at Gettysburg. A living thing that “witnessed” the Civil War battle. I’m sure there are others throughout the land that have “seen” things.
Musically, all songs are solid. The vocals are inspired & rural-flavored. But on “River Gonna Talk,” a little too much vocal treatment renders it somewhat in the tradition of a 50s Gene Vincent take. It should sound closer to a back porch tune with hound dogs sleeping by the jug of corn whiskey. Good keyboards.
The exceptional “Weight To Carry,” has this same element but works better. It sounds like it was recorded in a hotel room in Texas 1930s. It would benefit from a fade-out instead of an abrupt end. Some pieces are folky pretentious, but I can’t fault the intentions. They’re songs that won’t bare repeated listens simply because we live in an era of overload. People’s mentality & attitudes have changed. Is anyone listening, I wonder? It’s the reason Bob Dylan stopped doing protest songs to Joan Baez’s chagrin.
Though “Give Us Free,” lays it on thick, the arrangement & vocals are warm. Smith is indeed sincere. Convincing vocals layered in a late-career black-coffee Eric Andersen manner, with dashes of Tom Paxton. Nice mix.
Lots of sincerity in many tunes & some are exceptional (“None of ‘Em Dead,” & “I Wanna Go Out”). But many are business as usual. For some folk music lovers, it’s perfect. These are narratives that require an appreciation of the simple art of listening. Songs like these always risk sounding dated. Mr. Smith is sure-footed. Much seems to be more about not what’s to be done — but what’s in your conscience.
Highlights – “River Gonna Talk,” “Gone,” “None of ‘Em Dead,” “Weight You Carry,” “Let’s Take Our Time & Do It Right,” “Witness Tree” & “I Wanna Go Out.”
Musicians – Lex Price (bass), Dan Mitchell (piano/Hammond B-3/bgv), Juan Solorzano (steel & electric guitars) & Alicia Michilli (bgv).
Color photo courtesy of Karen Will Rogers. The 40-minute CD @ https://www.davidgsmithmusic.com/
Enjoy our previous coverage here: Song / Video Premiere: David G Smith “Weight You Carry”