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With all the good records emerging on the pop side of folk, it's refreshing to hear one that's more unabashedly on the folk side. There are many tunes here that could cross over (especially that incredible song with Tom Kimmel, "Clear Blue Sky," that I cannot get out of my mind), but the spirit of this recording comes from a folk place and a really authentic Midwestern artist.

Born into a large family in Iowa, Johnsmith's music is a hip version of family values, it's definitely a bring the spouse and kids show. He is one of those really purehearted people that isn't wasting any time on the cool factor, he just gets there by virtue of his integrity. And he will lay you right out when he talks about his vanishing dad, sittin in the boat with his fishin hat, believe me.

Excellent cowriters make great songs, and John comes to Nashville regularly to pen songs. On this record there are cowrites with Steve Seskin, Sally Barris, Tom Kimmel, Lisa Aschman, and Kelly Shriver.

Company like that combined with his own significant gift for song will likely land him some tunes on the radio before long. Regardless and in the meantime, he keeps a full schedule of playing the folk and festival circuit nationally. His bell-like Irish tenor voice is suited beautifully to his songs, and his guitar style moves with equal adeptness between a softer fingerstyle and strong rhythmic accompaniment.

In fact, the more I listen, the clearer it seems that Smith is really writing the kind of songs that do cross over to the country pop format these days, unlike a lot of folk writers that are decidedly more pop on their own records. There are a lot of thin and invisible lines in the publishing business, and folk pop and country pop aren't the same thing, they come from different mentalities. John's pushing the kind of stories and values that make sense in country, without compromising his own vision of life and his own solo act. Find out more about him and pick his album up at johnsmithmusic.com     • FG

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