Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Hundred Dollar Valentine
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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I go back with guitarist Chris Smither, who was raised in New Orleans, studied Paris both for a while in public school and later in college, and migrated to New York and then Boston where at Club 47 he made his first major career notices. Smither would be on the folk festival scene (I'd see him at the Philly Folk Fest) and then "below the radar" for a few years, coming back like the Phoenix to attract new listens and re-engage with old fans.

I liked his CD released in 2012 and was awaiting this one, surprisingly his first album of all original compositions. There are some real goodies here and Smither's guitar playing (and his tapping feet, which are almost a signature sound for him) is - as expected - superb. I guess the title track is my favorite. Even though Smither wrote all the songs, they aren't all new. There is a "hidden bonus track" (#11), which is his 1984 song "Rosalie" in what is described in the notes as An after-hours "B" Room Field Recording". It's just Chris with his guitar and minimal production.

The album includes a 12 page booklet with the lyrics to the 10 songs which form thr core of the album (in easy to read typeface).

Fans of Smither will enjoy seeing that, while - at age 67 - he continues to grow as a songwriter, he still looks back to where he's been.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
0Comment| 22 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 8, 2013
As I said elsewhere in a comment-on-a-comment, I don't care for the singer (Anita Suhanin) or the harmonica (Jimmy Fitting) - both have chops and pedigree but are just a distraction here, adding nothing. The harmonica really just sounds cliched. Never thought I'd say this, but I think it's time for Mr. Smither to challenge himself by stepping away from producer Goodrich and his stable of regulars. I'm a long-time fan and think the guy is fabulously talented, but this production isn't doing him any favors- it is just Bland. The best Smither remains his "Live As I'll Ever Be" (acoustic) and "Up On The Lowdown" (studio album). That being said, a sub-par Smither album beats 90% of what's out there today.
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on July 22, 2012
Chris Smither as any fan would attest is a unique artist. His extraordinary skill with the guitar combined with his fantastic ability to make magic out of simple words and his gravelly voice are an incredible combination. This album is another example of his superb skill which like a good wine only gets better as he gets older. I love it and would encourage anyone to give it a listen.
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on August 13, 2012
I could use the old saying that Chris Smither is like a fine wine that improves with age. But that would imply that his earlier work was less impressive than what he's doing now. The truth is that with a musical career spanning some 40 years or so, Mr. Smither has always been impressive. How he never became super famous during the singer-songwriter era is a mystery to me, but that was a bit before my time, so I can't explain it. He's been writing and playing great bluesy folk music since before I was in diapers and as I sit here now with grey hairs on my chinny chin chin, I find that more than a little bit amazing.

My sense is (though I don't know for sure) that he's finally getting quite a bit more popular now, thanks in part to the democratization of music on the Internet. Not so long ago the only way to discover new music was to listen to the radio (or have a friend make you a "mix tape!"). Alleluia those days are gone! We now have services like Amazon, Pandora, and Rhapsody (just to name a few) where good talent is never far away and you don't have to depend on record producers and radio station execs to tell you what you like. I think Chris Smither thrives in this new environment because he is truly talented, and most everybody who stumbles on his music gets hooked.

If I had one critique of Hundred Dollar Valentine, it would be that the accompanying musicians are just not needed. The harmonica is blazing, the backing vocalist has a pretty voice, the drummer is good... they're all fine. Fine fine fine. But they are gilding a lily. Chris Smither is at his very best when it's just him and his guitar... his big scratchy voice, flying fingers, and thumping foot. I had the pleasure of seeing him in concert a few months ago and it was an incredible experience. I was totally transfixed. I would have been perfectly happy to sit in my seat all evening and hear him play through every song he's ever written. Just the man and his acoustic guitar.

My favorites cuts on this album are the more upbeat ones, including the title track, as well as What They Say, Make Room for Me, and Place in Line, but they're all good. I'm really looking forward to seeing him in concert again, because I have a suspicion he'll play many of the tunes from Hundred Dollar Valentine and I bet they'll sound even better than the album versions because it will just be him and his guitar. Pick up the album and check his tour schedule because he gets around a lot and he's really great in concert.
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Three of the 11 tracks here are tunes Chris has previously recorded, "I Feel the Same," "Every Mother's Son" & "Rosalie." While they are all great songs and nice to hear again, these recordings are not so different from their original recordings. There are some new gems here that his fans and fans of melodic acoustic folk will love. "Hundred Dollar Valentine" that opens the set is a delightful piece of upbeat folk-rock that marries Smither's unique sense of melody with his wry lyrical sense, "I flip my switches but I don't turn on, not a flicker; I got no juice today; I had a lighter in my carry-on, but the airline took it away." "What It Might Have Been" is a classic loping lament where Chris sounds like the loneliest man on earth, "I lost a lot of things 'fore you came; I've learned that losin' is part of the game." "What They Say" has Chris' trademark foot tap keeping time to a joyful tune in juxtaposition with his wry lyric, "They say the good die young, but it ain't for certain; I been good all day & I ain't hurtin'." Other tracks like the intriguing "Feeling By Degrees" & the knee-slap ditty "Make Room for Me" are also delights. Every new release by Chris Smither is a cause for cheering & "Hundred Dollar Valentine" is no exception! Enjoy!
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on January 2, 2013
I consider myself a fan of Chris Smither, but have yet to "get into" this CD. I appreciate a Smither CD for it's virtuoso guitar play and meaningful lyrics. The lyrics retain his high standard, but the guitar play has so far been lost to me on this work. His vocals have always been an acquired taste, but seemed weak here, though the spare back-up vocals did help.
Still, no regrets for having purchased this, it's just that he's done better.
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on December 8, 2012
As a fanatical fan of Chris, I feel cheated with this album. A new album should not contain songs which feature on more than one past album of his. The remaining songs I felt were only average and nothing like his best work. Come on Chris, you can do better than this.
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Accustomed to the lone folksinger Chris Smither and his guitar and tapping toe providing deep and sometimes humorous observations of life, romance, and society, I was surprised by the country folk band arrangements. Drums, cello, harmonica, dobro, xylophone, violin may not be necessary but they provide some lightness and emphasis to Smither's poignant philosophical thoughts. As a senior myself, his blues seem sharper, even personal. Lyrics are provided for further appreciation of his remarkably clever writing talent. His songs here concern ideals tarnished, of casting off expectations and attachments, of loss and death watching nearby, as in, "It ain't what I know what makes me blue/It's what I thought I knew", "A little taste of hope that slowly slides away,/in ceaseless rolling rhythms that become the day to day", and "dancing on the edge of the stage". I love this guy! There is a bonus, unlisted track (Rosalie) at the end of the album, where Smither performs his usual solo followed by conversation with songwriter Andy Friedman. This provides some direct comparison with the previous band treatment. For me, it is all about words and either way is fine. Pleased to hear you, Mr. Smither; perhaps I will encounter you again.
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on January 9, 2014
Chris Smither is a thinking person's songwriter. Like his style or don't but listen to what he has to say and you'll have some thoughts to mull over. I don't know how many songs he has written but a very high percentage of them are worth singing, again and again. This batch is no exception; it is fine as can be. I just love riding along with Chris, he'd be a great traveling companion.
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on July 12, 2013
He is so good, amazing folk playing guitar to match his sometimes good, sometimes moderate voice. Don't take that in any negative way, combined they are always a force to be reckoned with. Cave man is my favorite :)
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