“If “The Dutchman” was the only song Michael Smith ever wrote, I’d put him on my list of great songwriters. But Michael has consistently written many great songs over the past 40 years or so and cemented his place on the list many times over.”
Smith’s vivid and surprising imagination brings us another quirky
–and winning– cast of characters from true crime and pop culture.
With the release of the CD album Old Man Dancing, American songwriter Michael Smith reclaims his rightful place as “Master of the Story Song”.
“I made this recording for the same reason I made all the other ones, which is to examine sound possibilities for the songs I write.”
In this his first solo studio recording since Anthology in 2005, Smith accompanies himself on multiple guitars, bass and percussion in just-right musical arrangements that underscore his multiple gifts as lyricist, composer and performer. In nine songs, Old Man Dancing introduces a quirky and lovable cast of characters –from true crime stories (Accokeek and Ballad of Phil Spector), pop culture (Roger Maris, Ballad of Dorian Gray), the movies (Edward G. Robinson, Lash LaRue) and conjured up from Smith’s vivid and surprising imagination (Poor Maurice).
Review Michael’s Old Man Dancing
Original songs: Accokeek, Sure Has Grown, Ballad Of Dorian Gray, Roger Maris, Ballad Of Phil Spector
Five Stars. Maverick UK! Michael self-released a recording of the songs from “Michael, Margaret, Pat & Kate,” produced by Hills, in 1994. The Wind River subsidiary of Folk Era Records made the album more widely available in February of 2000. The Wind River version included the previously unheard, doo-wop inspired, “Little Falls” – a tribute to the town where Michael spent his teen years and first performed in a band. The disc also featured an extended version of “Coffeehouse Days.” Apart from a few covers, including the Cole Porter standard “Begin The Beguine” and the traditional “Kilgarry Mountain,” Michael penned the remaining material which included spoken narratives. The upbeat “Belmar” recalls a childhood visit to the beach, “Looking For Maureen” is a tale of unrequited love, while “I Brought My Father With Me” remains one of the most touching songs in Smith’s oeuvre. On 1st January 2000, when we were able to assess the music of the century that had just passed, my rating was that “Michael, Margaret, Pat & Kate” was, by clear miles, the finest album that had been made. I know that I am not alone in that opinion, and pray that one day the small crowd, that I am currently a member of, becomes a nation [and more]. Smith may be recalling events from his own life, but he does it with consummate honesty, in the process capturing the love, heartache, humour, humility, desperation and countless other emotions that constitute this human existence. As an entity, the album is the finest [musical] journey I have ever taken. I revisit it often. (Arthur Wood, Maverick UK)
“Some of the most recent examples of Michael’s great writing are on Old Man Dancing, his new CD and, once again, he uses the power of finely-crafted lyrics, elegant melodies and minimalist arrangements to draw the listener into a series of compelling story songs.” (Mike Regensteif, http://frfb.blogspot.com/
“When the wind is from the Susquehanna
And the nights are turning cold
Looking for that Pittston Stove”
Smith gets personal, too. Set in the mining town of Pittston, PA and based on childhood memories are the songs Sure Has Grown and the simple and elegant Pittston Stove, which ends the album. With Pittston Stove, Smith brings to life an iconic and long-gone symbol of 1940s family life that radiated warmth through crowded kitchens, past back porches and railroad yards…yet eludes the storyteller.
“Though I’ve been writing songs since I was a teenager, it didn’t occur to me for a long
while that I should learn how to open my songs out for myself, instead of explaining it
to other people and, though it’s not my nature, attempting to be cooperative with them
on their own visions.“
In Michael Smith’s Old Man Dancing, we encounter an unlikely grouping of people and
stories, and in time, perhaps, come to grasp the inner world of this master songwriter
still in his prime, with much more to say.
“And though starting late, so late, naive, ignorant and primitive, on my life’s work, I’m
having a tremendous amount of fun and I hope you’ll find Old Man Dancing
Old Man Dancing is produced on the Bird Avenue label
and is available at CDBaby.com,
by mail order and at Michael’s concerts.
Michael would like to thank Barbara Barrow, Anne Hills, Sue Parpart, Dolly Zander, Rob Arendt, Bruce Roper, John Abbey, Judith Quittner Seizys, Jamie O’Reilly, Nia O’Reilly Amandes, Leo and Ben Segedin for their contributions to Old Man Dancing.
For more information, visit michaelsmithmusic.com
4 Comments for this entry
Zoe KeithleyNovember 23rd, 2012 on 11:50 am
It’s always a happy, bell-ringing day when a new Michael Smith album hits the streets!
Zac ADecember 1st, 2012 on 11:36 pm
Agreed! A new Michael Smith album is an EVENT. One of America’s greatest living songwriters!!
Pete DicksonDecember 5th, 2012 on 10:11 am
This is not your grandfather’s Michael Smith album, but it is as good as anything he has ever done. The accompaniment and vocals are highly processed, ala the post-Revolver Beatles, and this may require some adjustment for fans of Michael’s acoustic style. But the songs are as witty, melodic, and touching as ever. Each one introduces us to a character in Michael’s life, but unlike Sr Clarissa or Margaret Mary, they are characters in our lives, too. Roger Maris, Lash Larue, Phil Spector, Edward G. Robinson–each has a song dedicated to Michael’s appreciation for them. Give this one a try. The old man is a helluva dancer.
richardDecember 7th, 2012 on 11:14 am
I discovered Michael thourgh his version of “the Dutchman” on the Steve Goodman memorial album and went on to the double CD of Michael Smith and Love Songs. Time remains my favorite of his sets of songs, but “Old Man Dancing” is terrific, and anyone who has liked other of Michael’s CDs will like this as well. Worth every cent.