GuitarNation.com CD Review
Title: "Juliet's Window"
Artist: Tom Smith, Nashville, TN
There are noisemakers and then there are musicians. There are musicians and then there are virtuosos. Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that Tom Smith is truly a guitar and banjo virtuoso; stylistically different from legendary pickers like Roy Clark and Jerry Reed, yet every bit as profound. Tom's originality is a breath of fresh air in a day where so many musicians are content to re-discover the past. On "Juliet's Window", Tom blazes his own trail and takes us on a unique guided tour of what can be instead of what is or what was.
Tom's newest CD, "Juliet's Window" is 10-tracks of an eye-opening example of excellence in musical technique and execution. Appropriately, "Juliet's Window" offers us a window into the use of the banjo as a quasi-classical instrument and of both the guitar and banjo as tools capable of painting jaw-droppingly beautiful musical landscapes.
The CD opens with the title track and is a powerful portent of things to come; an example of banjo musicianship in which the player is not bound by the constraints of the past history of the banjo as a bluegrass instrument. Tom applies classical, nylon-string guitar techniques to the banjo, and, by doing so, opens up a whole new world for the listener.
"Juliet's Window", "On Any Given Night" and "Pennies to the Party" (tracks 1, 6 and 10) are what I would call the "banjo tracks". They are excellent waypoints on the journey of discovering what can happen when, after years of traveling down dirt and gravel roads, the banjo is allowed to soar to unrestricted heights on the musical autobahn.
"Child's Play", track 2, is the first of the "guitar
tracks". Its' Celtic overtones are tasteful and restrained
and hints of the diverse sounds that Tom coaxes from his guitar,
which is a Sitka Spruce and Brazilian Rosewood creation that Tom
made for himself back in 1993. Tom is one of a handful of luthiers
that are also capable of playing at world-class levels.
I have been a fan of slide-guitar playing ever since Ron Wood put down his bass, left Jeff Beck's band and joined forces with Rod Stewart in the short-lived "Small Faces" that evolved into the "Faces". I mention this because track 3, "Like Ships in the Bay", has some of the finest slide-guitar playing that I have heard in a while. Track 9, "Some Other Blues (For Some Other Lady)" reinforces how good Tom's slide-guitar work really is!
Track 4, "Like Roses in the Night", is an emotionally charged Spanish/flamenco number that serves as a delicious counterpoint to the delicate and precious following track, "Little Jewel". "Paper Dragons", track 7, a rather serious-sounding guitar work is noteworthy (pun intended) for its dazzling fingerwork and shimmering textures.
"After the Past", track 8, slows down the tempo just enough for Tom to show that he is in total control of the pace of the music. As its title suggests, "Little Jewel", track 5, is a delicate and precious tune.
To sum it all up, Tom Smith is an exciting triple threat: guitar player, banjo master and luthier. "Juliet's Window" is Tom's best work to date. It is an extremely accessible recording, by which I mean that it is super-enjoyable while at the same time not being intimidating to those who are musicians or, in my case, noisemakers. Other reviewers have said things like "common name, uncommon talent". I prefer to say that he is a multi-talented artist whose music blazes a new trail guided by the true north star of individuality.
For info regarding Tom's services as a Luthier, booking or to buy CDs, please contact Tom Smith at: info@TomSmithGuitar.com and say you saw him at GuitarNation.com.
To hear selections from "Juliet's Window," "Little Dog," (also reviewed here onhttp://www.guitarnation.com/cdreviews.smith.htm ) and Smith's 2 other CDs, please go to: http://www.TomSmithGuitar.com