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Chris Smither "Just Learning" How To Make Records -- At 62

Of the Oakland Press

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Chris Smither doesn’t bring an ambitious agenda to his albums — even after 36 years of recording.

“Basically I set out to record some songs about things that have been on my mind, and that’s what happens,” the singer-songwriter explains. “The way it turns out is usually a surprise.”

And Smither — whose songs have been recorded by Bonnie Raitt and Diana Krall, among others — has been a little disarmed by the reception for his 12th and latest album, “Leave the Light On.”

“It’s interesting, the reaction I’ve gotten from most people,” he says. “They really, for some reason, think it’s more relaxed and laidback than the last record (2003’s “Train Home”). I thought the last record was a real breakthrough in terms of that laid-back, confidence feeling, and this one exceeds it.

“I don’t know why that is. Maybe I’m just learning how to make records at the age of 62.”

One of the most striking tracks — and greatest departures — on “Leave the Light On” is Smither’s treatment of Bob Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna,” which he delivers in a manner that’s different than the original and than anything else he’s ever recorded.

“That came about through a conversation with a friend of mine, who’s also a guitar player and a singer and songwriter,” Smither says. “We were singing the song, which is a favorite of both of ours from that period of Dylan, and I said ‘This song would work in (3/4 time signature). He said, ‘What are you talking about? maybe more like 6/8,’ so we started fooling around with it.

“He said, ‘You should do this,’ and I was like, ‘Nah, that’ll never work,’ and I lost track of it over a couple of years. I mentioned it to my producer (David Goodrich), and he said ‘You gotta do it. You’ve never done anything but 4/4.’ I just love the way it came out.”

Bourbon Street Blues, featuring Chris Smither and Marcia Ball, takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday (November 18th) at The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are sold out. Call (734) 761-1451 or visit www. theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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