Picks and Pans Review: Small Revelations

updated 02/17/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/17/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

Chris Smither

Bonnie Raitt has called Smither "my Eric Clapton," and the folk-blues guitarist can indeed energize an audience with his fluid finger-picking style. Raitt also endorsed Smither's songwriting skills by recording, in the early '70s, his "Love Me like a Man" (his version is titled "Love You like a Man"), which has become a concert standard for both artists.

Smither's eighth album is refreshingly spare, featuring stellar guitar-playing set against his sometimes quirky, sometimes heady lyrics and offhand, raspy baritone. His cover of Jesse Winchester's "Thanks to You" sets the tone as he belts out "I ain't some beginner." (Small Revelations also includes two more covers, an excellent version of Brownie McGhee's "Sportin' Life" and Robert Johnson's "Dust My Broom," which Smither puts too much rev in.)

But best of all are seven fine new Smither compositions. "Slow Surprise" is a folky song about accepting that a relationship has slowly deteriorated. In "Help Me Now," an up-tempo blues number, some lines suggest Smither's solitary life as a journeyman performer: "Where do I go to close this show/ This one-man band to the bone." His crafty finale, "Hook, Line & Sinker," is a wonderful New Orleans-flavored number complete with a barrelhouse piano solo, the sound of Smither's retreating footsteps and a slamming screen door.

In the title track, Smither sings, "Beware of cheap imitations/ Thankful for small revelations." As one of the latter, he needn't worry about coming across as one of the former. (High-Tone)

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