Another One From Darden Smith

Originally posted July 18, 2008

One of the reasons for my vinyl madness of the 1990s was proximity: I first lived five blocks from Cheapo’s on Minneapolis’ Lake Street and then, after the store moved into larger digs (made possible, I am sure, by my patronage alone), about ten blocks from the store. As a result, between the beginning of 1992, which was about when I moved to the neighborhood, and the end of July 1999, I bought about 1,500 records, boosting the collection to about 2,300.

In August of 1999 (as I related here at least once), I moved further south in Minneapolis, about six miles from Cheapo’s but only maybe three miles from a Half-Price Books in the Highland Park area of St. Paul, just across the Mississippi River. I became a pretty regular customer at HPB (though not the super-regular I’d been at Cheapo’s.) I also found a Cheapo’s about another two miles further into St. Paul, and I spent some time and money there, too, but HPB was a more regular stop.

In the early days of 2000, about six weeks or so before I met the Texas Gal, I was struggling. In the past five months, I’d lost a good chunk of my health, I’d lost a job because of my ill health, and I’d lost a fiancée because of the depression I fell into after losing my health and my job. I was surviving, thanks to my parents being in a position to help and to several governmental agencies. With careful planning, I had $5 to $10 each month for music.

And, as I related at least once here before, Half-Price Books in Highland Park kept a cart near the front with its clearance CDs, almost all of them $1. In the middle of January, I’d found Darden Smith’s Little Victories there for a buck. Having liked it as well as I’d liked Evidence, the album Smith had recorded in 1989 with Brit Boo Hewerdine, I was looking for more.

On a Sunday trip near the end of January – the football playoffs must not have I interested me, or else I was too restless to watch – I found a Darden Smith CD titled Trouble No More. It, too, was $1, so it went out the door with me. I made a quick stop at the St. Paul Cheapo’s that afternoon, as well, and found a third Smith CD, Deep Fantastic Blue, for a couple bucks more. Satisfied, I went home.

Of the two, the later disc, Deep Fantastic Blue, is more adventurous, but Trouble No More is more quiet, more soothing, and it quickly became one of my favorites, never straying far from the Aiwa.

As I wrote the first time I posted anything by Darden Smith, his music “occupies a place somewhere near the intersection of country, folk, pop and rock.” It’s a fascinating place to stand, I think I wrote, but it’s a hard place from which to be promoted. And Trouble No More stands right at that intersection, accessible to folks who come to it from various directions.

The opener, “Midnight Train,” is one of the more clear-headed assessments of the rapid and dizzying feelings we go through during the course of our first enduring relationship.

“When I was seventeen
“As far as I could see
“All that mattered was running free
“But then I heard that midnight train
“Calling out your name, yeah,
“And oh baby, yeah, some things never change.”

I sat in my small living room in south Minneapolis, shaking my head, wondering why this guy wasn’t better known, a question that I still ponder almost nine years later, with six more of his CDs in the rack.

From the light-hearted love story of “Frankie & Sue” through the melancholy of “All the King’s Horses,” from the joy of “Trouble No More” through the sad acceptance of “Bottom of a Deep Well,” Smith’s music spoke to me in a way no performer’s music had for a long, long time. And Darden Smith’s name went on the list of performers whose stuff I will always buy.

Here’s Trouble No More.

Midnight Train
Frankie & Sue
All the King’s Horses
2000 Years
Ashes to Ashes
Fall Apart At the Seams
Trouble No More
Long Way Home
Listen To My Own Voice
Johnny Was A Lucky One
Bottom of a Deep Well

Darden Smith – Trouble No More [1990]


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