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Album Review: Steve Smyth – Exits

2 min read

Behind his impressively rough-as-guts facial hair lies a heart-breaking tenderness that carefully reveals itself throughout Steve Smyth’s sophomore album. In Exits, the itinerant troubadour has created a sprawling soundtrack for travel that reflects his own seminal experiences traversing Europe, North America, Asia and his home Australia. The miscellaneous and unexpected nature of overseas encounters is manifest in the versatility of the album, shifting between rambling and rowdy Rock N Roll and tender, folk balladry with ease.

Steve Smyth Exits AlbumThe album opens with Get On, a gritty Rock N Roll track that brashly announces Smyth’s blues aesthetic and roaring voice. The stomping opener unfurls into another boisterous anthem, Shake It, which integrates intelligent time signature changes with riotous guitars to captivate the listener’s attention. Digital Heart proves that Smyth is just as comfortable expertly soaring over a chamber string ensemble as he is growling along with a quintessential, raucous blues outfit. This unfolding expressive sensitivity leads into the serenading Paris. The evocative melody of the solo violin clearly captures the contentedly despondent beauty of the French city. The honeyed tone of Smyth’s voice is perfectly accompanied by a unison violin in its stunning refrain.

The full band performances and gravelly vocals of Desolation Point and South Land are faultlessly placed in the album’s midsection. Drifting expertly between duplets and triplets, the addition of organ conjures images of a seasoned traveller navigating the deep south of America. In contrast, the intimacy and arresting melodies of Paris are once again established in Manuscripts, Le Pessant and Written or Spoken. The simple instrumentation of second single Written or Spoken particularly draws attention to the striking quality of Smyth’s voice, expressing a subconscious honesty and genuineness that renders me gut-wrenched and broken-hearted after every listening.

Exits appropriately ends in the same manner in which it opened – propulsive, rollicking and robust blues rock, demonstrating the songwriter’s ability to switch easily and cohesively between dirty grit and intimate fragility. There is a sense of timelessness to the voice and song writing that comprises this body of work, which will remain as affecting in ten years as it did when I had Written or Spoken on repeat for an hour yesterday.