Nashvile City Paper

Nashvile City Paper
Smith Displays Versitility on new CD

“He’s one of the nation’s premier guitarists, even though he’s better known to devotees of instrumental releases and musicians than general audiences. But Tom Smith’s playing has been ranked right alongside that of such acoustic masters as Leo Kottke and John Fahey, and he’s shared the stage with a host of rock, blues and folk greats, among them John Hammond, Odetta, Michael Hedges, Dave Van Ronk and Livingston Taylor. Now a Nashville resident, his newest release Juliet’s Window is a technical masterpiece, though it’s also so diverse that it could accurately be deemed jazz, folk, ambient/New Age or even in some places blues. To some extent Juliet’s Window might also be deemed a return for Smith, who never completely abandoned the guitar and banjo but almost a decade off from formal concerts and shows while doing something that proved quite helpful in many other ways. “I worked with students in teaching art and literacy in South Central Los Angeles,” Smith said. “These were students who in some cases had been in situations where it seemed like they were almost afraid to learn, and in other instances had to be shown not to fear the people who were trying to help them. It was an amazing period in my life, and a rewarding time even though it wasn’t exactly what I’d always been doing before that.” That’s because Smith previously established his reputation as a topflight soloist and interpreter on both guitar and banjo. During the ’60s and ’70s he was a familiar face on the acoustic and coffeehouse scene. Smith was known for lyrical impressionistic works that could be sentimental or edgy, rapid-fire or slowly paced, elegant and expressive. That blend of styles appears throughout Juliet’s Window, from the teeming sensibility of such pieces as “Like Roses In The Night” or “Little Jewell” to the more upbeat “Some Other Blues (for some other lady)” or “Pennies To The Party.” Juliet’s Window is getting sizeable regional airplay and support, with a network of area stations that include Middle Tennessee State University’s WMOT-FM (89.5) among those regularly airing it. “Being in Nashville also poses some interesting challenges because you’re in a town where there are more great musicians per square mile than anywhere in America,” Smith said. “It makes you really think about what you want to do musically, how you must present it and who is really your core audience. What being here also does is really make you listen to yourself as a player and discover what you’re trying to do and say. It becomes much less about technique and more about what you want to put into a song. You learn how to let the notes breathe in a composition and not try to play everything at once.” Smith is now working on songs for another CD, and will also be contributing a banjo solo to the next release from old friends Tuck and Patti. His three previous releases, as well as Juliet’s Window are available on his Web site TomSmithGuitar.com”

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