David G. Smith Who Cares DavidGSmithMusic.com
Songwriters are a different breed, we know. Where many of us observe through cliché and personal viewpoint, the lyrical songwriter perceives via meter and rhyme, turn the expected upside-down, and provide witness to that which hides.
On previous albums within my collection, including Non-Fiction and First Love, Iowan David G. Smith established himself as an individual capable of digging deep (musically, lyrically, thematically) while maintaining the entertainment side of recorded performance at his fore. He does so again on Who Cares. The arrangements are elaborate, producer Blue Miller’s and Joe Robinson’s guitars cutting through verses and chorus, Larry Franklin’s fiddle spicing select numbers. David Ray Smith beats time, no retreat. Who Cares is his most fully realized album.
Like Mary Gauthier, who has served as inspiration and guide for him, and Sam Baker, Smith cuts through verbiage to find essential phrases and words to represent the ache living within those he trusts to communicate his wooden stool philosophy. The album’s most fully realized song—no competition implied—“Shine” finds its groove somewhere in the neighbourhood of “People Get Ready,” an influence acknowledged in a clever, natural opening reference to Curtis Mayfield—and features the aforementioned Gauthier sharing space with Smith. This is a moving song, both for its substance and for the vocal interaction between Gauthier and Smith.
I need to get a radio gig, just to share music like this. Damn, my words are inadequate. Hopefully, I find some video clips for you to appreciate.
The breezy sounds of Hammond B3 (Tony Harrell) accent “Right Amount of Wrong,” a song of easy-sounding complexity co-written by Karen Leipziger; once upon a long time ago, such songs had a chance at commercial radio. Hopefully this one finds its way to some influencer’s frickin’ playlist. “Mi Familia, written with Tom Favreau, humanely cuts through the muck that exists in the political fútbol that is America’s southern border situation. To Smith, the human cost is paramount.
Producer Blue Miller (“High Rollin’,” Gibson Miller Band) fell ill as production on Who Cares wrapped, succumbing within months. Who Cares was his final project, and serves as a fitting tribute to Smith’s good friend.
Other songs explore sexism and family (“Mary Alice”—“she’s a bad ass trucker,”) depression (“Where Is The Medicine,”) mythology (“Jesse James,”) and the weight of obligation (“Straw Houses,”) and do so without heavy-handedness and didactic earnestness. “Say Die” along with “Without Water” (and “Mary Alice”) examine the fine balance we often traverse, doing right by one’s family while recognizing we’re shitting on the Earth and all that truly matters.
Smith writes, “…let the song say what it wants to say. It’s that simple. It’s that hard.”
Mission accomplished, Mr. Smith. Mission accomplished.