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I'm a Stranger Too

Chris Smither

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Album Review

Chris Smither left New Orleans in the mid-'60s for Boston, and quickly became part of a booming Cambridge folk scene that also included Bonnie Raitt, who went on to make his "Love (Me) Like a Man" a folk-blues standard. He eventually signed a deal with Poppy Records, which led to the release of I'm a Stranger Too! in 1970. Although he was just entering his mid-twenties, Smither's songs already had the insight and eloquence of some of the period's best singer/songwriters, yet with the roll of his Louisiana roots and a strong debt to bluesmen like Mississippi John Hurt, Willie McTell, and Lightnin' Hopkins. He also had a great ear for outside material, borrowing from writers such as Neil Young and Randy Newman. He went back a couple of years to Young's days with Buffalo Springfield for the innocence of "I Am a Child," as well as to a pair of more recent choices from Newman's (then just released) 12 Songs. The production on I'm a Stranger Too!, built primarily around Smither's intricate, bluesy fingerwork and prematurely mature baritone, works best the closer that it's pared to the bone. As great as Newman's "Have You Seen My Baby" (the source of the album's title) and his own "Love You Like a Man" are as songs, the full band arrangements here seem a bit thin in comparison to some of the more stripped-down cuts. Smither went on to successfully re-record these and a few more tracks from the record (along with selections from 1972's Don't It Drag On) 20-plus years later, but there's still a certain charm to these early versions. I'm a Stranger Too! is a portrait of an artist who stepped onto the scene fully formed, yet still with plenty of room to grow. Reissued in 1997 by Collectables as a two-fer with Don't It Drag On.

Biography

Born: 11 November 1944 in Miami, FL

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Like John Hammond and a handful of other musicians whose careers began in the 1960s blues revival, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Chris Smither can take pride in the fact that he's been there since the beginning. Except for a few years when he was away from performing in the '70s, Smither has been a mainstay of the festival, coffeehouse, and club circuits around the U.S., Canada, and Europe since his performing career began in earnest in the coffeehouses in Boston in the spring of 1966. Smither...
Full Bio
I'm a Stranger Too, Chris Smither
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