Chris Smither, Time Stands Still (Signature Sounds, 2009)

At 65, Florida native Chris Smither is a venerable elder statesman of the blues scene in this country. His first album came out in 1970, and his new CD Time Stands Still is his thirteenth studio release.

Smither's laid back, front porch approach to blues will definitely remind people of J. J. Cale, and maybe a little bit of Mark Knopfler as well. (The album closes with a cover of Knopfler's "Madame Geneva's," further cementing the connection.) So if you're a fan of those performers, you already know enough to justify looking into Time Stands Still. Smither is an excellent acoustic guitarist, producer David Goodrich provides some solid backing on electric guitar, and Zak Trojano fills things out on drums and percussion. His crotchety-sounding baritone might be an acquired taste for some, but Smither makes up for a lack of smoothness with plenty of warmth and character.

The album has a bunch of decent songs, but the brilliant "Surprise, Surprise" is worth the price of the whole CD. This song is a humorously cynical look at the current economic state of affairs. "Call Yourself" is another strong track, reflecting on the need for self-reliance when life gets difficult. Yes, the subject matter for
most of the songs on the album is weighty and dark, but this is the blues after all.

People looking for a fix of good picking music will like Chris Smither. Time Stands Still is a pretty good collection of songs with a couple of standouts. I may have to dig into Smither's work a bit further myself.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

"Surprise, Surprise." The feel-good song of 2009? Not quite, but a great song nonetheless.

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