With his alternate tunings, a piece of plywood and an ability to tap along with the music a la John Lee Hooker, Chris Smither might be one of the more unusual songwriters out there these days.
Armed with a guitar and a voice that sounds like a car rolling along a dusty road, Smither has received critical praise for the music on all of his recent albums, with a special nod to his songwriting as well.
His music has been covered by Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt and John Mayall, but it's a lot more fun to watch the guy play his own songs, with a mic for his voice and another for his foot.
Smither, 56, has had a long rise to fame. He recorded a ‘lost record' in 1973, Honeysuckle Dog. It was his third album, recorded with Lowell George and Dr. John, and was considered his breakout album. That is, until Capitol chose not release it.
It took Smither nearly a decade to recover, and he really picked up his stride in the mid-'90s. Now he's touring coast to coast from today through next January, from Chico, Calif., to Toms River, N.J.
One of his most requested songs is "No Love Today," involving a street vendor who shouts out his daily supply of vegetables, including red beans, black beans, okra, sweet corn and mirliton - a squash-like vegetable used in Cajun cooking.