On first glances John Smith is an enigma. His name is bland and synonymous with that well known ale, and yet his hushed and growling voice, that thundering acoustic guitar would fool you into thinking he heralded from America’s deep south, the sort of wrinkled sage you’d find in a Jack Daniel’s sepia advert. The truth is that Smith is an Essex boy in his twenties. But forget these conflicting details and you’ll find a musician that can produce folk and blues songs Nick Drake would be proud of.
There’s no doubting the powerful aura surrounding Smith, a man who claims to have recorded his album in motels, bamboo forests and huge wooden houses. Shotguns are even audible on ‘Axe Mountain’, a tale of a woman’s revenge on her husband’s murders. Songs like ‘Invisible Boy’, a cathartic tune about the pain he suffered from meningitis when he was only 17, give you a further idea of the emotional depths Smith trawls for his art. If Smith himself is imbued with a mythic persona it is a quality which seeps into his music. He delivers songs that are romantic and raw and tinged with a bittersweetness which is impossible to resist.
So if you’re bored of the featherweight singer-songwriters which inundate the charts and after that authentic leaden weight of a musician who really means what he sings get yourself down to Putney’s Half Moon on November 11th. When Smith sings ‘Sit down here beside me and hear a sad old tale’ there is no where else you’d rather be.
By Jon Davis
John Smith plays the Half Moon, 93 Lower Richmond Rd, Putney SW15 1EU on 11 November.