Foggy Folk Presents...John Smith, Upstairs @ Whelan's, Wednesday April 14 (1 Viewer)

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Foggy Folk presents...

John Smith

& special guest: Lisa O’Neill

Upstairs @ Whelan’s

Wednesday April 14th, 8pm

Tickets from WAV, Road Records, City Discs, www.tickets.ie & Ticketmaster outlets nationwide


"Spellbinding" - Time Out

"One man, a guitar and an incredible voice...mesmerising" - bbc.co.uk


Praised and encouraged by the legendary John Martyn and taken on tour by folk colossus Davy Graham, John Smith is an ordinary man with extraordinary abilities – a gift for sharp songwriting and prodigious guitar-playing – with experience to burn, and expectations to fulfil. But even the men that guided his career wouldn't have expected a record like this – one that stays true to their sounds, but takes them and builds upon them, in the deep South.

Recorded in the bayou, under bridges, in forests, and in motel bathrooms, Map Or Direction bristles with sensitive songs that tear emotions to their raw, ragged bones. Already loved by musicians far away from the folk world, like Queens Of The Stone Age's Josh Homme and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Map Or Direction reveals the absolute power and passion of folk performance, and introduces the mainstream to an exceptional new voice. It also shows the world how it far John Smith's music can travel, and how many of us it can move.

Smith was born in Essex in the early 1980s, but moved to a tiny fishing town in the West Country as a small child. This is his heartland, he says, and his home. Brought up in a household filled with classical music and blues, he got a guitar of his own for his 11th birthday. His father also owned records by Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, and three albums by a little-known singer-songwriter called Nick Drake. Smith grew up falling in love with these musicians and retreated into his own world of strange tunings and percussive effects. He would hone his techniques throughout his teens and start performing in Liverpool, where he attended university. It was around this time that he got his big break, working as a steward at the International Guitar Festival, where an entrant didn't turn up to an 'acoustic guitarist of the year' competition, leaving Smith to take his seat at the last minute. Smith won, and his dizzying future would begin at that moment.

Funding his career with jobs in cafes and comic book shops, Smith played live as much he could, racking up support slots with artists such as John Renbourn (who described him as 'the future of folk music'), James Yorkston and Tunng. His acclaimed debut album, The Fox And The Monk, appeared in 2006, and his two-year stint touring with John Martyn – who would take him aside regularly, compliment his work, and give him advice – would follow soon after. He then joined Davy Graham for his final tour, before playing at Glastonbury and the Green Man.

As Smith crossed the country, however, and grew up on the road, he realised how much he had been hiding from one painful memory. At 17, Smith contracted meningitis, and spent more than a year recovering from it. Realising it was time to confront it head-on, he wrote Invisible Boy. It begins his new album with this striking line; "Well I guessed that I'd died with my friends at my side/Puzzled young faces just slipped away slowly" – and its sensitivity prepares us for the depths ahead.

Content to confront his worst fears, Smith realised he wanted to push his music further. He gave up on an earlier plan to make a simple folk record in the comfortable countryside, and let producer Jason Boshoff – a man who has worked with Madonna and Basement Jaxx – indulge his wildest plans. Boshoff had been blown away by one of Smith's songs, Watch Her Die, feeling it had something of the swamp about it. Two weeks after they had first met, both men were on a plane to America, and they would spend the next 12 days crossing Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The men worked on songs in huge wooden houses, and stopped at motels with bloodstained sheets on the beds. They unravelled power lines out of their Chevy to record acoustic guitars in the depths of bamboo forests. Watch Her Die came to life underneath a church in the bayou, while the beautiful Swords was recorded in the rather less mystical shadows of a toilet in Austin. Close listeners can also hear gunshots on the incredible Axe Mountain, the tale of a woman seeking revenge on the murder of her husband and friends – not a live re-enactment, but the strange, coincidental strains of a Civil War re-enactment happening half a mile away.

Smith also created atmospheres by slamming doors in old stairwells, throwing stones onto train tracks, and using the time-honoured methods of field recording to do something different. He returned to England, revived and revitalised, and completed his project with a few, final tracks – the gorgeous A Long Way For A Woman, a song about longing for home that he wrote in Ireland; and a stunning instrumental, Oliver, for a close friend.

Listening to the album in its entirety, Smith's songs are full of fire and passion, with his big, burnished voice sounding both raw and romantic. Feel your heart soar as Another Country tells us of the familiar urge to begin journeys again; melt as The Fear, The Horror tells us of a boy who "found my way here to sundown". Then sit awestruck as Smith's powerful version of Death And The Lady, a folk standard about a young girl struck down by an early death, tells you so much about his journey, and his gifts, too. In their warm graves, John Martyn and Davy Graham should rest easy, both having given new life to a remarkable talent...

Jude Rogers Nov ‘09

www.myspace.com/johnscousticsmith
www.johnsmithjohnsmith
 

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