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August 16 @ 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm
There is a tension in this collection of tunes which pulls us in and holds our attention. Artists that are a delight to hear and watch in a live performance can be transformed, in good and not so good ways, in recordings. This song cycle by Sky Smeed catches us in mid-stride listening to his earlier CDs which have become constant companions on the road and in the rotation of tunes that is constantly playing in my head either through the ether or just memory.
Rooted in the southeastern Kansas Folk, Blues, Country, and Rock traditions his creations of Americana music are exceptional, delightful and passionate. Sky is patient with his music and songs. While some artists whiz through songs in a Dylanesque fashion leaving an array of near misses in their wake, Smeed takes the time and effort of learning the nuances of his own songs and interacts with them until they become, very simply, part of him and who he is and what he presents on stage and in recordings.
He is an amazing song writer, but perhaps more importantly he is a deliberate and finessed song interpreter. He finds the heart of songs, which others might leave buried in the lyrics or music, and brings their beauty to our senses. The passion which he brings to his stage performances can also be felt in these recordings. Our thanks is due, we learn in this CD, to Mrs. Veredigere for teaching Sky to trust his ears. We all are the beneficiaries.
The comic element in Smeed’s song writing is something we have grown to appreciate and admire in his prior tunes such as “Smoke and Spice”, “Medical Marijuana Blues”, “Won’t Go to Work”, and “Bumper Sticker”. On this album we find “North Shore Trail”. If you happen to catch a live show when all his running buddies are hollering in the front row, you will delight even further in the layered meanings and spirit of this tune.
The collision of music making strategies, Rock, Blues, Rap, Hip-Hop Folk, Country is interesting, intriguing, and important in the history and future of music. Hayes Carl captures that in his “For the Sake of the Song.” Sky’s “Wanker Blues” makes me think of the cross-over diverse music of our heroes such as Neil Young and Bob Dylan who are just as comfortable and expansively creative in the diverse musical arenas of Folk and Rock and whatever we want to call all those in-betweens. This tune speaks to how much fun it is and how enjoyable to witness and listen to the rowdy Rock and Blues varieties of Sky’s music. If you have an opportunity to hear an electrified Smeed show, you better do it as you are in for a genuine treat. It is just fun expressed through amazing music. This tune is part of that experience of being electrified.
The final track on this CD (like all of Sky’s CDs this one is too short, we just want it to keep going!) is one that will be on Sky’s greatest hits collection whenever that comes out. This tune, “Without Music” is classic great Smeed stuff. Like all his work, this comes from real life and perhaps from a toast which his father-in-law made when digesting the hard fact that his daughter was marrying a musician! He challenged us to ponder a world without music. Perhaps not one we would want to witness, one that would be hard to imagine or enjoy. We do enjoy this world, mostly. And the parts of my days which are the very best are when listening to amazing music and songs, to songs of Sky Smeed. This song is a keeper, you will want to hit the “repeat” button.
If you can catch a live show you better do it. Sky has the ability to take a song he has played on stage a hundred times and make it better. I don’t know how this works or how it is possible. I have never witnessed even a hint of burnout or boredom in Sky’s performances or recordings. He sings his crowd pleasing songs which we have come to know and love as if they were newly rediscovered old friends. This is not a slick and polished veneer like we hear from pop tunes out of Nashville, but the soulful patient nurturing of a master who seems himself to sometimes be surprised when he is singing a piece of his heart and his Guild guitar is in perfect tune. – Jack Hofman, Poet