Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Have you ever heard of Chris Smither? If the answer is no, then the system has failed us. This is the 73 year old Smither’s 17th album which Smither has been making dating back to 1970. The man has had quite a career and Call Me Lucky illustrates that Smither still has plenty of gas in the tank. It is much harder making the 17th album than it is the first. The more one learns about a particular discipline, the harder it is to break the rules and continue to grow. Those stigmas do not apply to Chris.
This marks the 54th year that Smither has been writing and performing. His songs have been covered by Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, and Dianna Krall. In addition to Raitt covering a number of Smither’s songs, they maintained a professional working relationship for many years. Chris has also worked on Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch and has toured with the likes of Dave Alvin, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Tom Russell as Hightone’s Monsters of Folk tour.
Not only is Call Me Lucky well played, sung, and produced, it is highly listenable. And that is really what matters. All of the songs have repeat potential. These are not mere songs, but compositions. There are all of the food groups represented. You have delta blues, country, folk, and bluegrass. When all of these elements are assembled by Smither, they create something greater than the sum of the parts.
Smither has included two covers on Call Me Lucky that have been deconstructed and completely reassembled. One of those songs is Maybellene by Chuck Berry (Track 2). The other song, which I want to explore in more detail, is Sittin’ On Top of The World (Track 8). That song was written by Walter Vinson. “Sittin”‘ has been covered by the likes of The Grateful Dead, Howling Wolf, Cream, Bob Dylan, etc., but I don’t think anyone has ever approached this song the way Smither has. It is different and very creative, yet still recognizable.
If there is one thing that Chris is known for, it is his writing. Nowhere is Smither’s writing prowess on display better than on By The Numbers (Track 5). The takeaway from this song for me is that the numbers represent our relationships in life. The numbers become that much more important the older we get. This song is beyond clever. Calling it clever or smart would be doing this song a severe disservice. I think the word that fits best here is momentous.
So in summary, I think we can all agree that Smither’s Call Me Lucky is USDA Prime. That’s the best there is. This album definitely deserves high praise and the highest grade on the scale. The best part is that you can honestly say that you bought the music created by a legend.