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Smith, Matt: Being Human/Parlor

Matt Smith is a musician who over the years has arguably been seen more as a producer of albums, music composer for commercials and a creator of film soundtracks. However, don’t let that fool you into thinking that Smith doesn’t make a lot of his own music, and by a lot, what I mean is that Being Human is one of eight albums that he is releasing simultaneously! Thankfully, that somewhat overwhelming body of work doesn’t simply represent a couple of months of feverish activity of quantity over quality, with four of those CDs being collections that bring together songs from specific eras and places in Smith’s musical journey and which put together make for an impressive insight into the man and his musical career. Add in a couple of live offerings and if you like what you hear, then there are plenty of options to dig deep into the Smith psyche.

The main events, however, appear in the shape of two more focused studio releases that offer up new music, with the first being the eclectic rock, latin, blues (and more) collection Being Human, while the latter is Parlor, where Smith shines a light on his intricate and informed acoustic guitar work. Interestingly, while I’d suggest that it’s the more understated member of that pairing that only just pips it for the position of being slightly ‘better’, it’s Being Human that proves more memorable. Here the likes of “Sanctuary” takes on an almost Santana like, but more straight ahead approach, whereas the hugely stick in the mind “Down In The Hole” - my own personal high point across the album - is a keen balance between flash guitar (Smith really can play!) and mid-paced sway, where the mood and vibe is king. That said, with the likes of “God Is Watching Over You” a quite beautiful string and piano infused heart-tugger and “I’d Do Anything For You” an almost lounge-lizard slither, the one thing that’s for sure as you get to know Being Human is that it never fails to surprise. It might be a little too eclectic for some, but whether creating straight ahead, restrained rock, soul, blues, or being a crooner, Smith has you in safe hands, with every musical idea well crafted.

Contrastingly, Parlor is a much more focused affair, Smith using an acoustic guitar his great grandfather first bought to create one-take pieces that really are rather beautiful. As I said, this man can play and he sure as hell ain’t bound down by genre, or expectations.

Matt Smith may not be a household name, although in certain circles his 6 String Ranch Recording Studio is legendary. However, on this strength he certainly deserves more recognition for his solo work than has previously come his way.

Track Listing
1. Sanctuary
2. Being Human
3. Everybody Wanna Do The Don’t
4. I Got The Girl
5. How We Got To Here
6. Down In The Hole
7. God Is Watching Over You
8. I’d Do Anything For You

Added: April 22nd 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Matt Smith @ Rock Rose Music
Hits: 386
Language: english

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Smith, Matt: Being Human/Parlor
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2021-04-03 16:40:43
My Score:

Matt Smith is a musician based out of Austin, Texas, and has been plying his trade for over thirty years as a teacher, producer, author and fine guitar player. As a matter of fact, if it has strings Smith can play it as he is well versed in many instruments including bass, banjo, mandolin, dobro, sitar, Mohan vina, saz, ukulele, charango, tiple and of course acoustic, electric, steel and baritone guitars.

His latest album is titled Being Human, released in 2020. Besides adding his considerable talent on the 6-strings, the album was produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Smith at his own 6 String Ranch in Austin. Quite an impressive feat I have to say.

The music presented is a mixture of Americana, R&B and a little bit of soul. It’s all very tasteful with Smith’s excellent guitar and pleasingly soulful vocals bringing it all home. The first track “Sanctuary” is quite mellow with nicely played lead guitar and Smith’s rich and soulful vocal timbre. I dig the smooth flow and the female backing vocals, used often throughout the disc, adding the necessary amount of soul. The balladic title track offers a tinge of gospel to its melodic brand of R&B with a catchy chorus and more tasteful guitar work. The funky beat and searing lead guitar in “Everybody Wanna Do The Don’t” and the catchy rocker “I Got The Girl” are more choice cuts as is the slow burn of “Down In The Hole” with its gritty demeanor and impactful lyrics. Smith often tackles real-life issues so many of these tunes may be quite relatable.

I found Being Human to be a nice surprise, well played and sung and easy on the ears. Recommended for those who have far reaching musical tastes outside of the prog umbrella.

Now let’s dig into Parlor. For the entire album Smith uses a Thompson and Odell parlor acoustic guitar that has been in his Family since the 1890s. So far, I have only heard his skill on the electric guitar and man oh man is he a fine player and I have to say he plays the acoustic just as well. Smith is such a versatile player and listening to Parlor further cements that fact.

The album is just Smith and his acoustic and starts with the feel good Americana folk ditty “29th St. Rag”, featuring fantastic chords and intricate picking. With “First Love” the sound is more serene and quite gentle and Smith’s technique creates a vibrant and intricate feel. This really is some lovely stuff. On the pure blues of “Blue As Blue Can Be”, the playing is crisp and clean with each note taking on a life of its own. The acoustic R&B tune “Spring In My Step” has another fine melody, one that will stay with you for quite some time. The beautiful and delicate “Daydreams” is excellent as well, as is the cover of Neil Young’s classic “After The Gold Rush”, an absolutely gorgeous rendition.

Smith continues to show exceptional skill and diverse talent, as Parlor makes an impactful statement and needs to be heard by anyone who appreciates acoustic music.

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