Gordon Smith: A British Blues People

Gordon Smith: A British Blues People

The British blues scene certainly had a handful of talent – no, I don’t count Clapton as an extension of that. Although, referencing one of the most boring performers (after his playing with the Yardbirds and Cream) in the history of recorded music might seem counterproductive if I intended to sing the praises of John Renbourn or whoever else, it serves to point out the wealth of approaches to this American music. Split into electric and acoustic camps for much of the sixties, the British exponents of the music frequently insinuated its own tradition of song into the form. On occasion it worked, but even the aforementioned Renbourn was given over to bouts with some of the most boring tripe put to tape.

Of course, it’s just weird to hear players work up a music founded elsewhere – and that goes for all of the Western jazz players, who during the sixties attempted to toss in some Eastern modalities. Gordon Smith, though, doesn’t sound like a Britisher. He sounds like a suburbanite from any major media center in the States. His warbly voice, on occasion, actually sounds like Marc Bolan, which isn’t bad, just an odd match to Smith’s guitar playing.

Taking a pretty rootsy approach to blues, Smith is accompanied by supplemental players just a few times over the course of Complete Blue Horizon Sessions compilation. Instead, he focuses on the bucolic side of the medium, working up finger picked progressions, not exactly on par with Rev. Gary Davis, but adequate. Probably, the most charming thing about these cobbled together recordings is the fact that if your stereo’s bass is working right, you can hear and feel Smith stomp his foot in time with the music.

Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody's Fault But Mine” gets a reworking amidst the spate of covers here. And with Smith turning in a relatively impassioned guitar part, his slight voice doesn’t seem to dove tail with the music. Of course, his six string skills, as evidenced on “Diving Duck Blues” and a few other places makes up for any perceived deficiencies. By the end of this compilation, thought, Smith gives himself over to the electric side of things for a few offerings. It’s not worthless fair, but “Too Long” sounds like it should be performed for a group of tourists in Hawaii. Interesting, but not worth repeat listens. And that goes for the rest of the disc. Only the most voracious blues people need drudge through this.