For those of you who may have never heard the name John Smith, let me tell you – that is not an easy man to Google. But for one who shares his name with an alcoholic beverage amongst other things, it is worth your time to find this Devonshire folk singer. Smith’s four previous records are all self-funded and released – no mean feat for a musician in the current stream-centric climate, yet Headlong feels anything but home-made and rough around the edges.
Opener Living In Disgrace is the sound of balmy summer days spent in fields, sipping cider and soaking up priceless memories. Smith’s voice is warm like the gentle heat of the sun, distinctive without being overpowering. Smith’s style would blend well for those who enjoy the music of Ben Howard and Hozier, who have gone on to make such style major mainstream contenders.
On Headlong, John Smith has an open heart-on-sleeve approach to lyrics, establishing a real connection between listener and artist. The kind of tone made for wedding songs, first dances and first loves – it’s probable that many a baby will be born as a result of John Smith’s smooth style. Cutting edge isn’t always best, and John Smith goes to show that even the most classic of sounds can still be timeless when approached with respect and dignity.
The subject of returning home has been sung about millions of times over the years, and on the aptly named Coming Home, we find Smith bring out his inner love for nostalgia. Pining for a girl who has left to take in the world, Smith puts his pain to excellent use. The result of which is a dreamy love song that is equally poignant and warm.
The thematics throughout Headlong come to a head on Joanna, where we finally get a name to put to the woman who has won Smith’s heart. There is admiration of her free spirit, yet pain at her absence that many will be able to relate to. The real life Joanna is a lucky lady to have such delicate songs written for and about her, highlighting the depth of feeling between these two lovebirds.
As a whole, there are multiple highlights on Smith’s latest record, but Threshold stands head and shoulders above the rest. Leaning towards a more country sound, this track encapsulates a real olde world love story. Smith’s voice suits this injection of personality, as there are a few occasions where it veers into monotone emotionlessness.
Ballads are the ace in John Smith’s armoury, and album closer Save My Life is a pained display of sadness. Not only is Smith tugging at the heartstrings here, he’s yanking at them and twisting them about a bit, if you’re feeling a little fragile then this might not be the best thing to pop on the stereo. But if you’re craving a cathartic cry, then Save My Life is the one for you.
John Smith may not set the world on fire with Headlong, but for those who discover his dulcet tones, the reward is sweet and caring lyrics backed by gentle and comforting music. To make and album is no mean feat, and to self release – even more impressive. John Smith’s passion for what he does elevates him above generic singer songwriter territory, towards something a whole lot more meaningful.