Aaron Smith

REVIEW: Aaron Smith & the Coal Biters “The Legend of Sam Davis”


Aaron Smith & the Coal Biters – The Legend of Sam Davis

If the music on this CD is as ambitious & creative as the package it comes in it should be thrilling. It’s a 92-page perfect bound historical/diary book with delightful vintage photography, lyrics, stories, illustrations & maps. It’s charming, informative & worthy. Too bad a group like The Band never got this ambitious with their LPs. Some may say, so what? But this sends a message – Aaron Smith & the Coal Biters must love what they do, they must cherish where they come from & respect their ancestry & heritage. I’m impressed.

The subtitle is And Other Stories of Newton County, Arkansas. It takes on an appearance like how they used to market old 78 rpm records. In a multi-page book so you can get ten 2-sided records in one big folder. Until the long player (LP) was invented.

Aaron Smith

This CD is 14-cuts over 56-minutes on The Legend of Sam Davis – (Drops July 14-Independent). What’s glorious is that each track is referenced as to which page in the book is about the song. Each is well-crafted with pristine arrangements & rootsy vocals & while it’s not entirely folk music – it has its moments of beauty, grit & rich soil performances. A nice pairing of the early Band tradition, the Basement Tapes with Dylan, Little Feat, lots of Hot Tuna & Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Some tunes even sound as if they’re traditional or have been around the barn a few times. But they’re all originals, interpreted with storytelling skills & produced by Aaron Smith & Justin Farren. There’s a traditional strain of John Hartford (who was born in New York), well-developed tales like John Prine & the vocal prowess of Steve Earle. “Dead Man’s Hollow,” is particularly beautiful. This is all impressive work.

Sam Davis, the subject is an eccentric mountain preacher who sets out on a quest to find his long-lost sister. Yes, it’s tales of a bygone era with a rich tragic past lived in tough times by even tougher people. It defined their lives & Smith encapsulates it all in his melodies.

Highlights – “The Way To Sam’s Throne,” “Jack Evans,” “Curly & Tom,” “Ab Claybon,” “Granny Brisco,” “Dead Man’s Hollow,” “The Snow Child,” “The Daughter of My People” & “A Thousand Years.”

Musicians – Aaron (vocals/guitar/banjo/mandolin/dobro/French horn/accordina/keys), George Holcomb (bass/clarinet/vocals), Ryan Gentry (vocals/percussion), Kelly Mulhollan (banjo/mandolin), Grae Smith (vocals), Michael Rasbury (wind in the pines), Grae Smith, Collins de la Cour, Justin, Kerry & Amelia Farren (vocals), Nathan Agdeppa (fiddle), Ben de la Cour (mandolin), Justin Farren (bass), Brian Rogers (drums), Joe Cartoon, Lynn McCracken & Addie Brownless (handclaps).

Music samples are on the band’s website. Color image courtesy of Aaron Smith’s website. CD @ https://aaronsmithsongs.com/home

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