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John Smith - Headlong

  by Stephen Simkin

published: 16 / 9 / 2017

John Smith - Headlong
Label: Barp Records
Format: CD


Impeccable and understated latest album from critically acclaimed folk-influenced songwriter and guitarist John Smith

Over ten years since his debut 'The Fox and the Monk' (2006), and having worked with or opened for all manner of legends from John Martyn and John Renbourn to David Gray and Lisa Hannigan, John Smith’s 'Headlong' sounds like something close to a definitive statement that underlines his songcraft and impeccable musicianship. The opening track 'Living in Disgrace' initially seems to wrongfoot the listener expecting retro-folk (the album cover features a headshot of Smith that could have been taken a hundred years ago): built on a chiming electric guitar, warm electric bass and subtle washes of keyboard, it sets an unexpectedly pacey opening rhythm. It is a strong piece of songwriting, one of the hookiest numbers on an album which occasionally feels like it could do with a few more catchy riffs and melodies. The title track puts us in more familiar territory, with John’s agile fingerpicking and warm vocal style. The rest of the album unfurls in predominantly folky mode, with some particularly pretty guitar on the hushed 'Into the World' and the very lovely 'Joanna'. Songs like 'Possession' feature some more electric guitar embellishments but throughout Sam Lakeman’s production is subtle and understated, ensuring the focus is on the voice, the mostly restrained and tasteful instrumentation and the songwriting. In the end, the album’s strengths are also, in some senses, its limitations: there is talent here in great abundance, but the album lacks that distinctive edge or killer stand-out track that would set it aside from the competition. Still, this is a very pleasing set of songs that deserves to build the hard-working Smith’s reputation and audience. Catch him on the road at upcoming festivals including Shambala, Purbeck Valley and End of the Road, followed by an extensive UK tour in October and November.

Track Listing:-
1 Living in Disgrace
2 Headlong
3 Far Too Good
4 Coming Home
5 Joanna
6 Possession
7 Undone
8 Threshold
9 Into the World
10 Desire
11 Save My Life

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