Steve Smith - Desert Night
Reviewed by David McCarty
Musicians very often become infused with the living, breathing spirit of the land they inhabit. Even a brief listen to Django and Stephane evokes haughty images of Parisian cafe society, while Monroe's hard-scrabble double stops and fearsome down strokes seemingly were forged in the Gary, Indiana steel mills burning Rosine, Kentucky-mined coal where Big Mon first worked.
With Steve Smith's Desert Night, his music uncoils around the listener like a desert breeze working its way across the alkali flats of his beloved New Mexico. Over 14 tunes here, Smith conjures up musical images reflecting the enduring sights, sounds and cultures of the desert southwest.
Utilizing a variety of musical instruments including a 1924 Gibson F-5, a Bill Bussman Old Wave 8va. mandolin, a 1915 H-2 mandola, a 1912 K-2 mandocello, a variety of vintage guitars, a wild range of percussion instruments, cello, bass and troubadour harp, Smith has a very broad palette of sonic colors to paint his musical soundscapes.
His music is intensely personal, reflecting his own experiences such as the swingy The Grackle and the Hampster, inspired by an experience his young son, Sam, had watching birds feeding outside his window.
Smith isn't a musician to indulge in hot licks or trendy progressions, preferring to craft distinctive melodies and then weave intricate harmonic lines in and around the musical core of each composition.
Aiding Smith in his musical endeavors here are Tom Espinola, who contributes not just his instrumental skills on cello, percussion, bass and guitar but also produced the project, the redoubtable Ira Gitlin on five string double bass, and the wondrously talented Lorraine Duisit on troubadour harp on the ethereal Orchard Music.
Desert Night is a musical treat for the senses, exploring textures, colors and images both vivid and serene. Sit back and enjoy the journey.
Song List: Desert Night/Starlight Canyon, Traveller's Lament/Mr. Jefferson's Oak, Sway Back Horse/Buzzard On A Fencepost, The Queen Anne's Revenge, Colorado farewell, The Grackle and the Hampster, When Small Children Sleep, Bacon and Bread, The Cafe Waltz, Allemande in E Minor, Frozen lake, Orchard Music, Crossing Queen's Creek, Frozen Lake Postlude