Not all great pickers and songwriters live in Nashville, L.A., or New York. Some reside in far off places such as Las Cruses, New Mexico. Steven Smith is a case in point. His fourth solo release, Hard Road, features more of his vocal abilities than his previous release, but still includes enough great picking to appease fans of his prodigious instrumental talents.
Joined by an impressive musical cast including Jim Hurst, George Rhee, and Bob Hull on guitar, Missy Raines and Elijah Copeland on bass, Wayne Shrubsall on banjo, Fred Bugbee on percussion, Robin Russell, Jane Horton, Bruce Johnson, and Sally Barnes on backing vocals, Steve plays mandolin, mandola, guitar and mandocello. Two original tunes join songs by Lennon and McCartney, John Phillips, Phil Rosenthal, Radney Foster, and five traditional classics. Smith’s version of the traditional “Poor Man” opens the disc, showcasing his virtuosic guitar playing and fine singing. The last song, Foster’s “Went For A Ride,” demonstrates Smith’s ability to create a memorable and personal rendition of a song that has already been recorded very well by its author. He’s got a little guitar lick that will drive you crazy trying to get it down. On originals like the title song, Smith conjures up a performance that will be difficult to improve upon, regardless of who attempts to cover it.
Twenty years ago, no one would have imagined technology advancing to the point where small labels and individual artists could produce recordings whose quality would rival the majors. But as is evident from Hard Road, if you have the talent, you can easily find the resources to make a great-sounding CD, even in the wilds of New Mexico.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct. ’04 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.