Christine Arrasmith, NPR News
Chris Smither performs in NPR's Studio 4A in Washington, D.C.
Cover for Smither's latest CD, Train Home (Hightone, 2003)
Chris Smither has been honing his bluesy, folk-centered acoustic sound for four decades now — and critics and fans say he's getting better with age.
He taps his foot to keep the rhythm, much like the late blues legend John Lee Hooker. His finger-picked guitar lines are sleek, unhurried and insistent. And then there's the voice — equal parts gravel and molasses, Smither's singing sounds like a distillation of the folk and blues heroes he grew up listening to in New Orleans.
NPR's Bob Edwards recently invited Smither to play in NPR's Studio 4A in Washington, D.C., and to talk about his latest CD, Train Home — an album lauded by critics coast to coast. It's Smither's 11th full-length album.
Smither is a veteran of the folk and blues revival of the early 1960s. He dropped out of college and began his career playing in coffee houses, small theaters and music festivals, gaining new fans with each gig.
He's gained equal praise for his performances and his songwriting abilities. Bonnie Raitt has covered Smither's songs "Love You Like a Man" and "I Feel the Same." Smither himself covers songs from Mississippi John Hurt and others on Train Home — including a haunting version of Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row."