Saturday Single No. 2

Originally posted February 17, 2007

If there were any justice in this world, Darden Smith would be a household name and his songs would greeted with cheers as they played on the radio.

There is, however, far less justice in this world than one would like, so Darden Smith remains a Texan whose music is cherished by his fans and is utterly unknown by the larger country-listening public that has made acts like Toby Keith, Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley household names. Now, there’s nothing wrong with those three acts – or any of the others who populate country music – becoming big stars (although I weary of Toby Keith’s bombast). And to be honest, Darden Smith these days is not strictly country. That’s where he started some twenty years ago, but he’s evolved to where his music occupies a place somewhere near the intersection of country, folk, pop and rock.

That’s an interesting place to live, musically, but it’s an awful place for the marketing and promotion folks to figure out. So they don’t try. That’s the only reason I can figure out to explain the public’s failure to elevate Smith to the level he deserves. He began his career with a self-titled independent release in 1986. His major label debut, on Epic, came with Native Soil in 1988; that album included reworkings of three of the cuts from Darden Smith and also included backing vocals from Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett.

After a collaboration with Boo Hewerdine of the British act, The Bible, resuled in the exquisite album Evidence in 1989, Smith shifted his solo focus just slightly from his country and folk roots for Trouble No More in 1990 and moved a little further away from those roots for 1993’s Little Victories. And 1996 saw the release of Deep Fantastic Blue, which All-Music Guide called “folk-tinged pop.”

Despite the stylistic distance Smith was placing between him and his country origins, the roots were still there, though perhaps no longer poking as near to the surface. Still, there was no drop-off in the quality of songwriting, nor has there been in the past decade, as Smith has released the delicious, if occasionally quirky, trio of  Sunflower (2002), Circo (2004), and Field of Crows (2005). He also revisited some of his earlier songs and did new – and interestingly different – versions of them for Extra Extra in 2000.

Perhaps Smith’s evolution means he’s no longer strictly country. If so, that’s only symptomatic of the blurring of the lines between genres in American popular music that has accelerated in the past twenty years. Good music is good music, and today’s Saturday Single, “The Levee Song” from Little Victories, remains bluesy, gritty and sexy and is as good an introduction as one could get to the music of Darden Smith.

Key line: “You say you don’t love me, but I think you might.”

Darden Smith – “Levee Song” [1993]


One Response to “Saturday Single No. 2”

  1. Another One From Darden Smith « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] I wrote the first time I posted anything by Darden Smith, his music “occupies a place somewhere near the intersection of […]

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