Album Review: Chris Smither, ‘All About The Bones’

Make no bones about it, Chris Smither looks below the surface to examine the skeletal structures of our lives on his new album All About The Bones. In the lucid lyrics in these songs, he cuts to the bones of human relationship, revealing the ways that they crack and splinter as well as their tensile strength for enduring disappointment, loss.

The emotionally resonant waltz “Still Believe in You” creates an airy dreamscape through which float filaments of vulnerability and need, resolve and love. Chris Cheek’s spiraling sax on the instrumental bridge casts an enchanting spell that transfixes with its exquisite yearning. Smither’s canny “If Not for the Devil” slides along from shadows of the blues to the brightness of jazz in this little monologue about the nature of good and evil. Like generations of poets before him, he knows that the Devil is by far the most interesting character in literature and life: “And if it wasn’t for the Devil/There wouldn’t be a lot to do.”

The swampy New Orleans blues of the haunting title track dances along Smither’s growling and prowling vocals, Betty Soo’s ethereal harmonies, and Cheek’s skulking sax as it offers a theme song just right for traipsing through a haunted house. At the same time, the track playfully glares down at the skeletal frames that support houses, songs, and human bodies; they fall apart as much as they hold together, and so we should be well aware, as Smither sings, it is “all about the bones.”

Reminiscent of many of Dylan’s early songs, the jaunty, propulsive folk ballad “Down in Thibodaux” rides along Cheek’s swirling sax and tells the story of Boudreaux, the musician with a “fiddle made by Satan and a wicked bow” who teaches the singer how to play. Betty Soo’s accordion and David Goodrich’s piano weave a gossamer web of reveries about a life well lived—and sometimes not so well lived—in “Completion.” The album closes with Smither’s
brisk take on Tom Petty’s “Time to Move On.”

All About The Bones reveals once again how deftly Smither cuts to the chase in his songwriting, singing, and playing, peeling away layers of cultural cliché to expose the pulsing heart of the matter that animates human nature.


 All About The Bones is available HERE


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