The Pocahontas County Opera House welcomes Chris Smither to its stage on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 7:30 p.m., as he tours in support of his latest album, “Call me Lucky.”
Born in Miami, during World War II, Chris Smither grew up in New Orleans where he first started playing music as a child. The son of a Tulane University professor, he was taught the rudiments of instrumentation by his uncle on his mother’s ukulele. “Uncle Howard,” Smither says, “showed me that if you knew three chords, you could play a lot of the songs you heard on the radio. And if you knew four chords, you could pretty much rule the world.”
With that bit of knowledge under his belt, he was hooked.
“I’d loved acoustic music – specifically the blues – ever since I first heard Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Blues In My Bottle album,” recalls Smither. “I couldn’t believe the sound Hopkins got. At first I thought it was two guys playing guitar. My style, to a degree, came out of trying to imitate that sound I heard.”
Honing a synthesis of folk and blues for 50 years, Smither is truly an American original. Reviewers and fans from around the world, including Rolling Stone and The New York Times, agree that Chris continues to be a profound songwriter, a blistering guitarist and intense performer as he draws deeply from the blues, American folk music, modern poets and humanist philosophers.
Recorded at the gorgeous Blue Rock Studio in Texas’ hill country, just outside Austin in Wimberley, Smither’s 18th album, titled Call Me Lucky, came out in March 2018 on Signature Sounds/Mighty Albert. It’s the artist’s first studio recording of brand new originals in six years. Once again Smither turned to his long-time producer and multi-instrumentalist David Goodrich, drummer Billy Conway (Morphine), Matt Lorenz (a.k.a. The Suitcase Junket), and engineer Keith Gary. The four musicians went into the session to record ten songs. What they ended up with is a double record: Disc 1 features the eight originals and two covers they started with; Disc 2 catapults the very same songs – with what life-long fans may know as the Smither sound – into another dimension, featuring very different arrangements.
At the core of Call Me Lucky are the ten songs, which offer commentary on the human condition that only Chris Smither can put pen to. These songs pull from deep in the soul, making for a kind of reflection, an introspection, that usually comes from someone only when facing a higher power or natural disaster. From the opening track of “Blame’s on Me” to “Lower the Humble,” Smither raises his own bar when it comes to songwriting. The rollicking “Nobody Home” offers a sharp observation of the 21st century, while “Change Your Mind” reaches back to Smither’s blues and folk roots as a young man.
Tickets for the Opera House performance are $10 for adults and free for anyone 17 years old and younger. Tickets are available at pocahontasoperahouse.org, the Fourth Avenue Gallery in Marlinton, and at the door the evening of the performance.
Performances at the Opera House are informal, family-friendly and open to all. The entrance and main seating are accessible to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are encouraged to attend; special accommodations can be arranged upon request by calling 304-799-6645.
The Opera House Performance Series is presented with financial assistance through a grant from the WV Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the WV Commission on the Arts. Support is also provided by Pocahontas County Drama, Fairs and Festivals and the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau.