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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
42
Still on the Levee
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:$16.93+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime


Two warnings: (1) The 2-disc album is book sized and will not fit on your CD rack unless placed flat; (2) you will love the album. All the music is newly performed in a New Orleans studio. Smither, brilliant songwriter, often witty life philosopher, and folk singer, looks back on his thus far 50-year career and has selected 24 of his songs for a retrospective. (There are 25 tracks but different versions of Leave The Light On closes both discs.) All the lyrics are provided in the enclosed booklet. Seventeen fine musicians help him in the project, notably Allen Toussaint on piano, Loudon Wainwright III, guitar and vocal, Bill Conway, drums, and the strings of Kris Delmhorst, Ian Kennedy, and Robin Smither. Jimmy Fitting blows and sucks the harmonica and Dana Colley plays baritone saxophone. The contrasting soprano voice is Anita Suhanin. Singer Catherine Norr is featured on one track. The sound engineering is first rate; Smither's wise voice is as strong and clear as ever. The arrangements are fairly simple and varied, with the other instrumentalists (besides Smither's own guitar) adding emphasis but not getting in the way of lyric or melody. The country blues, as Disc 1, Another Way to Find You, is a lovely acoustic ensemble. The cello and violins smooth the ballads. This album provides definitive examples of masterly talent. Listening to the music, reading his lyrics, you will soon want to know Smither better, buy him a beer, share a meal. Even if you own the earlier albums that contain the reprised tunes, you will much appreciate this new issue. If, on the other hand, you are new to Chris Smither, the discs will be a good introduction.
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This is a great collection of Chris Smither's songs, rerecorded with more lush, more mature instrumentation, yet it's all done in a way that feels natural and right, like the songs themselves have simply evolved with time.

I first heard Smither at a small rural festival in 1992, it was a magical time, and I went home with his latest Another Way to Find You and an earlier It Ain't Easy CD. Over the next 15 years I collected almost everything else he produced. Then years later I discovered I had somehow ended up without any of these recording as they slipped into that foggy whirlpool of property division that is divorce, and I never bothered replacing them, as if they were part of a past I didn't want to try and revive.

Today all those years and missing albums come back to me in a flood of relief and appreciation. These old songs (a selection of 24) are familiar yet rearranged and refined enough in the revisit to make them essential even if you have the originals. Being all rerecorded in June of 2013 they have the consistency of his voice and vision and virtuosity as it is "now". And his voice sounds great here, as does his rich and nimble instrumentation, along with some tasteful backing. Each time I listen to these CDs (and I've been listening to them a lot) I hear a new favorite - and it's perhaps most telling that his songcraft really shines through the clearest when someone else is sing them, like on the final track of disc 2 where Kate Lorenz of Rusty Belle does a beautiful version of "Leave the Light On".

The material recorded here, going all the way back to 1970 and including something from all 12 of his studio albums (except his 2009 Time Stands Still), is impressive in itself, and the fact that he's put his latest touch on it is much more than just a cherry on top, or a new coat of paint, it's more like finding a cask of his single malt that has sat untapped for decades - so much better with aging. He's also added deluxe packaging (DVD size booklet with nice and easy to read lyrics), which will make it a bit harder to store with the other CD, but probably guarantee greater notice/play.

Although its great to see all these cuts having new life breathed into them, and some are absolutely beautiful, I'm finding I still like some of the stripped down originals more, but that just inspires me to finally repurchase those earlier albums. Seems to me that's the best kind of retrospective - new appreciation for the present and the past. Thanks Chris.
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I ordered this CD because I saw Chris Smither had a new release. I didn't realize that this was a retrospective with the tunes being familiar ones from his catalogue. Smither is brilliant. For quite awhile he was his own worst enemy with substance abuse, but thank goodness he had a regeneration and strong output since the 90s. On November 11, 2014, he turns 70. These recordings of familiar tunes to his life-long fans are welcome like a comfy pair of slippers. Were they absolutely necessary for me? Maybe not. But it is charming to see Smither rocking these babies with such flair. One of my favorite songs is Smither's "Don't It Drag On" with his witty lyrics married to a catchy tune, "You know I got nothing to sell you; It takes me hours to say there ain't nothing to tell you; And when you don't call at all, you show me how well you know me now." "Love You Like A Man" that got a more commercially successful version early in Bonnie Raitt's career is given a spunky reading. "Rosalie" is a very sweet tune that polishes well in this acoustic version. Smither nails the vocals on his bluesy "Another Way To Find You." Allen Toussaint's piano on "Train Home" sparks this new version. "What They Say" comes alive with Loudon Wainwright III on vocals. "Still On the Levee" is a great overview of Chris' delightful work. Enjoy!
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on August 4, 2014
We saw Chris live during a taping of the "Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour" in Lexington. We had never experienced his music before and were mezmerized. He was amazing in person and musician. He played alone, and sounded like three people playing at once. He had a few of these CD's available for sale, but by the time we made it out to the lobby, they were ALL sold out! What an enjoyable musician - and writer. His songs are pure poetry. This CD comes with a songbook of lyrics, and you can read them as a poetry piece. While flipping through the book, I put the next song on hold and read the first stanza to my husband before the music started - we both thought the words stand apart from the music, the music just makes the words "sing." For the price we bought it at, it was a steal! At any price, you will be satisfied. If you are not, you don't like music. We like an eclectic assortment, but for anyone who enjoys music, especially the blues, buy this CD!
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on September 26, 2014
Chris Smither is one of those artists that when you see his name playing somewhere in your neighborhood you immediately think of well crafted music sung in a distinct style and excellent guitar work to boot. This 50 Year Retrospective is a revisiting of his own compositions newly recorded with help of some fine musicians, Allen Toussaint and Loudon Wainwright III most notable. Recorded last year in New Orleans, this is fine re-telling of this man's musical resume. I've played several times on some long trips and have grown to love it even more.
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on October 13, 2014
I must admit I had never heard of Chris. Then one day I heard one of his songs on Sirius and took a chance on this album. I was not disappointed. Its one of the few albums where I can honestly say, I enjoy every song! If you like bluesy, folk type music, without a lot of embellishment's, this album will not disappoint !!
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on January 3, 2015
Have always loved Chris Smither's music and if anything these live performances just seem to raise the bar a little higher. Even though he's fast approaching his seventies, that same gritty rasping blues voice just gets better and better. Chris's guitar work is as good as it ever was, I would rate this recording alongside his earlier "Live As I'll Ever Be", a perennial favourite of mine.
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on December 23, 2015
I have been a Chris Smither fan since his days at the Main Point in Philadelphia. Generally, I far prefer his live albums to his studio albums. But I have to say, this one is one of his best. I love it! What can I say? Listening to Chris Smither makes me happy.
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on December 31, 2014
Double album featuring nothing much new and with audio quality much lower than that of Smithers' studio albums. His live interpretations seem flat and jaded compared to most of his previously released versions. Buy this ONLY if you really want rustic live versions.
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on January 3, 2015
Great compositions by a master songwriter and musician. The engineering is first class, also, giving excellent sound and clarity. This would be a good recording to introduce anyone to the soulful music and insightful lyrics of a seasoned performer at the top of his craft.
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