“Some might call me that,” muses Chris Smither, or one might simply say that the world is lucky because Chris’ songwriting and touring can stand the test of time. CALL ME LUCKY is Chris’ 18th and newest record and arguably, his best.
Songwriter. Guitarist. Bluesman. Interpreter. Performer. For over 50 years.
Chris Smither is truly an American original.
Recorded at the gorgeous Blue Rock Studio in Texas’ hill country just outside Austin, CALL ME LUCKY is Chris’ latest studio record of brand – new originals in six years (release date: March 2, 2018 on Signature Sounds/Mighty Albert, distributed by Redeye). It features Chris’ long-time producer and multi-instrumentalist David Goodrich, drummer Billy Conway (Morphine), Matt Lorenz (aka The Suitcase Junket), and engineer Keith Gary. The four musicians went in to the session to record ten songs. What they ended up with is a double record; Side A features the eight originals and two covers they started with; Side B catapults these songs – with what life-long Smither fans may know as the Smither sound – into another dimension.
Producer David Goodrich recalls, “I’ve worked with Chris on a number of records over the past several years and I had a special feeling about this one going in. I didn’t send out any roughs or lyrics to the guys ahead of time. As I said, I had a feeling. We walked in to the studio on June 23 and it became evident these ten songs were the foundation of something bigger.”
During the making of the record each musician each at some point wore different hats. Chris shook things up. The engineer played piano. The drummer played guitar. Chris took a Chuck Berry standard and turned it on its head and it came out in a minor key. They added in another surprise cover (you’ll just have to listen to find out what it is). And to top it off, yes, Chris went electric.
At the core of CALL ME LUCKY are the ten songs. They offer commentary on the human condition that only Chris Smither can put pen to. These songs pull from deep in the soul that make for a kind of reflection – an introspection – that comes over someone only when facing a higher power or natural disaster. There’s no choice but reflection. From the opening track of “Blame’s On Me” to “Lower the Humble,” Chris raises his own bar when it comes to his songwriting. The rollicking “Nobody Home” offers a sharp observation of the 21st century while “Change Your Mind” reaches back to Chris’ blues and folk roots as a young man.
As most Smither aficionados know, Chris recognizes great songs by other writers and always includes a couple of songs by other musicians. Chris’ deftness as a song interpreter is often overlooked and yet his ability to choose a song and then make it his own is almost as important as his signature guitar styling and his command of the songwriting craft. Listen, you’ll hear for yourself. Chris’ 2018 rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene” is menacing.
Goodrich goes on to say, “There have been some out there – like Bonnie Raitt, The Dixie Chicks, Emmylou Harris, John Mayall, Diana Krall, and others – they not only know the strength of a Smither song, they get how coverable he is. Chris himself is the ultimate interpreter of others’ songs, and being the songwriter he is, we thought, ‘Let’s have Smither cover Smither. So one afternoon we let loose and had some fun. Chris dug in and gave these songs new identities. An interpretation. That’s how we ended up with the second disc.”
Side B of CALL ME LUCKY transcends the core record and takes the listener on an unexpected sonic journey. And mixing it all up is that surprise cover.
And that is CALL ME LUCKY.
Fans from around the world continue to fill concert venue after concert venue eager for the galvanizing ride of a Chris Smither concert. Reviewers including the Associated Press, NPR, MOJO, and The New York Times agree that Chris remains a significant songwriter and an electrifying guitarist – an American original – as he draws deeply from folk and blues, modern poets and philosophers. And with CALL ME LUCKY Chris keeps doing just that. For some, a record like Chris’ last release, the double CD 50-year career retrospective Still on the Levee would have been a monumental way to wrap up a long and successful career, to hang it up and go out on a high note.
Not Chris Smither.
As he says, “This is what I do.”
Eighteen records in, 83 songs over a lifetime, so far.
CALL ME LUCKY is proof Chris Smither has more to offer. And aren’t we lucky.
Keep going, man. Keep them coming.