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Darden Smith

CIRCO (Dualtone) • Darden Smith

I was so happy to see a new CD by Darden Smith come in the mail. This guy makes beautiful music, really speaks to my soul. He calls himself a folksinger, but that just doesn’t tell the story. Folk music just isn't this long on soul, by and large.

It's got that rare, truly rare, softness to it, coupled with a deep groove. Not a groove that was added to the top or inserted underneath, but a groove that was written, that's running through the middle and every part of the tune, and the musicians just got it and played along.

But a little more on the softness, because that's one of the reasons I put Darden on, that's what I'm looking for, what I need when I go looking for one of his records. Everything's hard, everything's loud, everything's smacking you right in the face on almost every record I get, at least on several cuts, if not most of it.

Any one of Darden's records is an antidote. And without being soft in the middle or new agey, the themes of love and spirit come up subtly in his records in a manly way that always appeals to me. I like the way he talks about relationships, he knows his faults and his strengths. He knows how to apologize, and stay off his knees until it's time to hit them.

Four out of the five co-written tunes are right up front, and are some of my favorites on the record. The opener with the fabulous John Scott Sherrill must be the AAA single, "What Are We Gonna Do," love it. "Love So Hard" with Kim Richey is next, it's extremely interesting how you can hear both of those co-writers' "voices" in their respective tunes. It's the masterful transparency of the artist, combined with the sense of musical self that allows both voices to appear undiluted, joined.

Speaking of voices joined, when Shawn Colvin and Darden sing together on a couple of songs, it sent shivers up my spine. Kim Richey and Jim Lauderdale each sing several beautiful backgrounds, and there is also a vocal cameo apiece for Boo Hewerdine and Suzzy Roche, esteemed company all around. Steuart Smith shows up multi-instrumentally on four numbers, everything sounds better when he's around.

Excellent rhythm section in play, Roscoe Beck on bass and Sammy Merendino on drums, first class. Lloyd Maines plays a couple of great steel tracks, and Michael Ramos a handful of beautiful keyboard contributions on Wurlitzer, accordion, B-3 and piano.

There, I've gone on too long. But I get that way about Darden Smith. Buy this record, you'll be happy you did. Clips on the Listen page. • FG

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