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JOHN SMITH - Hummingbird 

JOHN SMITH - Hummingbird 
Commoner Records COMM01CD 

This is the sixth independent album from renowned singer guitarist John Smith and comprises 10 excellent tracks including three original compositions, six classic traditional ballads and an Anne Briggs song. Beautifully produced by Sam Lakeman, the album also has contributions from Cara Dillon, John McCusker and Ben Nichols. John’s mesmerising voice and superb guitar playing bring a depth and clarity to the familiar songs in a way that breathes new life into the music. The late John Renbourn once described Smith’s approach as “the future of folk music” and this collection confirms that it certainly is in safe hands.

The opening title track is a beautiful love song written by John in 20 minutes. The other original songs are Boudica, a celebration of the heroic queen of the Iceni tribe, and Axe Mountain, a fast picking tale of a woman’s savage revenge. The Time Has Come sounds like a homage to Renbourn and Jansch complete with double bass and first take guitar parts.

It is the modern treatment of the classic ballads that underlines the singer’s soulful passion on tracks like Lord Franklin, Master Kilby and Hares On The Mountain. There is an Americana feel to Willie Moore, a rolling paced tragic lover ballad. Highlights for me are John’s version of The Lowlands Of Holland and the beautiful Unquiet Grave, a 15th century duet with Cara Dillon.

This is a great album by a great performer and you should have it in your collection. If this is indeed the future of folk music, bring it on!

Gerry Jones

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This album was reviewed in Issue 126 of The Living Tradition magazine.