Album Review: John Smith, ‘The Living Kind’

Spiraling vocals and ringing, innovative guitar stylings launch John Smith’s atmospheric new album The Living Kind. Produced by Joe Henry, Smith’s album takes off on a soaring sonic flight that shuttles from clouds of jazz improvisation to the airiness of ethereal folk.

Rhythmic acoustic strums introduce the opening track, “Candles,” an ode to the burning of life at both ends. Towering harmonies on the song’s refrain evoke the overwhelming emotion of living life in the face of death, while piercing strings mimic the flickering of a candle blowing in the wind.

With its improvisational tone, “Candles” resembles the aural texture of Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote.” The ebullient title track features layers of jaunty strumming woven over swooping organ strains and joyous call and response harmonies, while the shimmering opening measures of “Silver Mine” recall the glittering crescendos of the introductory bars of Van Morrison’s “Coney Island.” Warm vocals and radiant instrumentation propel the sparkling paean to love “The World Turns,” while Smith’s spare vocals and the lilting orchestral structure of “Milestones” convey poignant reflections about the Smith’s daughter’s growing older and his presence or absence as she passes certain “milestones” in her life. The album closes with the sparse, tender ballad “Lily,” with dazzling guitar lines reminiscent once again of the Van Morrison of Avalon Sunset.

The Living Kind celebrates the beauty, joy, hope, and love of life, especially in the face of and following the ugliness of illness and hopelessness. Smith’s resonant vocals and his musical innovations, along with his lyrical ingenuity, carry listeners on an emotional journey, accompanying them through their hours of dark and light.


 The Living Kind is available HERE


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