Jonah Smith

by Jonah Smith

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    Mixing blue-eyed soul vocals with swampy Southern Americana, Jonah Smith taps into a distinctive and inviting singer/songwriter groove on his nationally distributed debut for the Relix label (he has two previous indie records). The sound is similar to that of the Band, reinforced by the appearance of that group's organist/horn player, Garth Hudson. Even though Hudson only officially contributes to one track, his presence looms large over the project. Still, this is very much Smith's album, and it is his songs and especially his warm voice -- somewhat like a combination of the Band's Levon Helm and Richard Manuel -- that makes these tunes come alive. Most songs ride a midtempo rhythm, barely breaking a sweat but connecting by sheer melodic force and Smith's charming, low-key singing. There is also a touch of Elton John's Tumbleweed Connection in the rootsy sound. The production and especially the sympathetic horn charts support the songs in supple and subtle ways. "Everything Is New," in particular, floats by like a dream you want to remember more of. Characters in Smith's songs are generally a sad lot, but all are searching for, and expect to find, better days. David Soler's guitar, especially his pedal steel, bolsters these songs without calling undue attention to itself. The unhurried quality of the album in no way makes it bland. Rather, these gorgeous songs drift on clouds of electric piano with traces of gospel, jazz, and blues added to the Southern singer/songwriter style. Smith's talented four-piece band supports the sound without overwhelming the material. Those familiar with the work of Randall Bramblett are encouraged to check out Smith, since both wade in similar waters. An extra track not listed on the back cover, "I Feel More Like I Did Back Then (Than I Do Right Now)," finds Smith edging into Dylan's late-'60s period. There is a hypnotic quality to this release and production that, like the best albums, stays on the back burner yet beckons the listener back for another spin. (Hal Horowitz - Allmusic.com)

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Review by Hal Horowitz from allmusic.com

Mixing blue-eyed soul vocals with swampy Southern Americana, Jonah Smith taps into a distinctive and inviting singer/songwriter groove on his nationally distributed debut for the Relix label (he has two previous indie records). The sound is similar to that of the Band, reinforced by the appearance of that group's organist/horn player, Garth Hudson. Even though Hudson only officially contributes to one track, his presence looms large over the project. Still, this is very much Smith's album, and it is his songs and especially his warm voice -- somewhat like a combination of the Band's Levon Helm and Richard Manuel -- that makes these tunes come alive. Most songs ride a midtempo rhythm, barely breaking a sweat but connecting by sheer melodic force and Smith's charming, low-key singing. There is also a touch of Elton John's Tumbleweed Connection in the rootsy sound. The production and especially the sympathetic horn charts support the songs in supple and subtle ways. "Everything Is New," in particular, floats by like a dream you want to remember more of. Characters in Smith's songs are generally a sad lot, but all are searching for, and expect to find, better days. David Soler's guitar, especially his pedal steel, bolsters these songs without calling undue attention to itself. The unhurried quality of the album in no way makes it bland. Rather, these gorgeous songs drift on clouds of electric piano with traces of gospel, jazz, and blues added to the Southern singer/songwriter style. Smith's talented four-piece band supports the sound without overwhelming the material. Those familiar with the work of Randall Bramblett are encouraged to check out Smith, since both wade in similar waters. An extra track not listed on the back cover, "I Feel More Like I Did Back Then (Than I Do Right Now)," finds Smith edging into Dylan's late-'60s period. There is a hypnotic quality to this release and production that, like the best albums, stays on the back burner yet beckons the listener back for another spin.

credits

released June 27, 2006

Little Black Angels
When We Say Goodnight
Stay Awhile
My Morning Scene
Cast A Long Shadow
Killing Time
Everything (Intro)
Everything Is New
Give It All Away *
Both Sides
Dressed In White **

(hidden track) I Feel More Like I Did Back Then…

• *written by Jonah Smith and David Soler
• **written by Malcolm Holcombe

Jonah Smith: vocals, rhodes, piano, songs
Ben Rubin: electric and acoustic bass
David Soler: electric guitars, acoustic guitar, pedal steel
Marko Djordjevic: drums, percussion
Bob Reynolds: tenor saxophone, clarinet + invaluable assistance with the horn charts

Guest Musicians
Elliot Mason – Trombone on Everything (Intro) and Everything is New
Brad Mason – Trumpet, Flugelhorn on Everything (Intro) and Everything is New
Garth Hudson – Accordion on Cast A Long Shadow
Carrie Rodriguez – Harmony Vocals and Fiddle on Stay Awhile
Bill Frisell - electric guitar on Stay Awhile

Produced by Lee Townsend – a Songline/Tonefield production

Adam Munoz - Chief Engineer
Jeremy Backoff - Asst. Engineer
Steve Bernstein – Executive Producer
Ross Elliot – A&R, calling people baby
Jonathan Schwartz – A&R
Edward jahn - Cover art
Greg Kessler – Photography
Richard Bloom – Art Direction

Recorded at The Studio, Woodstock, NY
Additional Recording at Mission Sound, Brooklyn, NY
Mixed at Tainted Blue, New York and @
San Francisco Sound Works by Lee & Adam
Assistant engineer at San Francisco Soundworks: Loredana Palomares
Mastered at Sterling Sound, NY by Greg Calbi
Marko exclusively plays Mapex drums, Zildjian Cymbals, & Evans Drumheads with Vater Sticks (but still badly needs a clothing endorsement).
Frisell Recorded at Flora Studio, Seattle by Tucker Martine

All songs written by Jonah Smith except where otherwise noted

I’d like to thank my band for making these songs come to life and for sticking with me through all these years of bar gigs, broken-down vehicles, stranger’s couches and what-have-you. I’d also like to thank the guest musicians on this record for lending their tremendous abilities to this project.

A special thanks to Steve Bernstein for believing in me and making it all happen.

These people have also been extremely helpful and deserving of our thanks along the way (in no particular order):

Lee Townsend, Adam Munoz, Jon Schwartz, Ross Elliot, Jeremy Backoff, Josh Baron, Wes Orshoski, the entire staff of Relix Magazine, Martin Greenwald, George Steele III, Burgess Wilson and all the folks at Image Entertainment, Greg Calbi, Greg Kessler, Jason Olaine, Giles Harris, Roger Cramer, Malcolm Holcombe, Katokim, Matt Stein, Chris Gray, Gintas Janusonis, Levon Helm, Janek Gwisdala, Smith Family, Rubin Family, Soler Family, Reynolds Family, Djordjevic Family, Liz, Jenny, Nora, Julia, Svetlana, Dan Mechanic, Salva, Edward Jahn, Garth and Maud Hudson, Tony Wilson, Queva Lutz, Dave Lapoint, Nathan James, Kevin McMahon, Vasilye @ Black Creek Guitars, Oliver Straus, Quico Pi de la Serra

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Track Name: Little Black Angels
Little Black Angels

Little black angels
Calling my name
Tell my brothers
That there’s no shame

In calling out for love
When you’re alone
I’ve been waiting for love to answer me
To explain these senseless things that come to be

Little black angels
Out on the street
Keep your mothers
Down on their knees

‘cause I realized so long ago
That a damaged soul will never stay too long
And if you break my heart again, I’ll be gone

Leave the candle lit
On the windowsill
You’re faith won’t let you quit
This time

Little black angels
Coming for me
Tell my brothers
To go in peace

I decided long ago
That this life here on earth is worth a try
And I’ll break my back before I let my spirit die
Track Name: When We Say Goodnight
When We Say Goodnight


Two years of dust swept in the corner
Two years of junk and magazines
A picture of a sunset that you drew me
Folded in a box of memory

Damn, that winter nearly killed us
Cooped up every night and day
But we have this thing in common
Well, you know she likes it as much as me

I don’t mind
One tear, one sigh
But keep me in your thoughts
When we say goodnight

Take down that picture from the wall
A blank canvas before our eyes
We don’t need these things no more
Another day, a new sunrise

Chorus 2X

Release myself from earthly things
Well it’s foolish, but it bears my name
And it’s grown to become part of me
Well we’ll leave them behind just the same

Chorus 2X

Instrumental Break

Chorus 3X
Track Name: Stay Awhile
Stay Awhile

Daylight breaks
So easy on you fingertips
And you tease me when you’re looking so coy
The morning sun is pleased to be lingering on your lips
And we can lay here just a little bit more

And if it’s all right
If it’s all right
If it’s all right with you
I think I’ll stay awhile

And if it’s all right
If it’s all right
If it’s all right with you
I think I’ll stay awhile

Well, it’s nine a.m.
The taxi idles by the curb
And you ask me if I’m feeling okay
A stranger’s bed left me singing like a bird
And ready to face the day

Chorus

Well the thinking man’s game’s always knowing where his head’s at
But it’s easy to get lost in times like these
You can ask me about the thoughts of any angel that sleeps
But not mine

Daylight breaks
So easy on you fingertips
And you tease me when you’re looking so coy
The morning sun is pleased to be lingering on your lips
And we can lay here just a little bit more

Chorus
Track Name: My Morning Scene
My Morning Scene

My morning scene
It’s foggy like a TV dream
Its lazy heart leaves me careening
For the world inside my head

The halcyon glow
Of the headlights thread the traffic slow
Reminds me of things I used to know
Like where she’d be this time of day

I don’t expect much from this day
But I might need some help along the way
I don’t expect much from this day
But I might need some help along the way

Her daily routine of
Alarm clock snooze and try to wean
Herself from sleep with strong caffeine
Out the door and to the train

Meet at the show
A quick exchange so we both know
Just what we think before we go
Into the cover of the night

Chorus

(Guitar Solo)

Chorus

My evening scene
The traffic speeds, the city screams
The rain pours and the gutters steam
Make me leave the world I’m in

The naked trees lean
The weight of frozen water clings
Your eyelids feel like heavy things
As you look out onto the world

Chorus

Yes, I might need some help along the way
Yes, I might need some help along the way
Track Name: Cast A Long Shadow
Cast a Long Shadow on the Stars


Another night under the same old stars
They don’t shine for you anymore
You start to think that there’s something else
Far out there

Drive to the horizon but don’t stop there
Drive past the wind and out to where
Your name blows hollow an empty phrase
And you disappear
But the echoes that you hear
They leave you with scars
As you cast a long shadow on the stars

You don’t know how things got out of hand
When you were forced to meet these demands
But the house was built upon the sand
And it’s sinking

Another thought, a unique take
Nothing to win, nothing at stake
Just another man
Singing for the sake of singing
And the songs ring in your ears
And they tell you how things are
As you cast a long shadow on the stars

A quiet voice that screams so loud
An open book but no one’s allowed
To get too close in a crowded
Room of strangers

The days are short but life is long
You can’t imagine what went wrong
Just another song in a sea of songs
But they’re not lost
And you’ve paid a heavy cost
Just to be who you are
And cast a long shadow on the stars

Waiting around for lightning to strike
But thunder spooks you and leaves you light
Floating out to where you thought you might
Just find her
Another string of words
To whisper from afar
And cast a long shadow on the stars
And cast a long shadow on the stars
And cast a long shadow on the stars
And cast a long shadow on the stars
Track Name: Killing Time
Killing Time

We’ll drown in this horrible summer
Three stories up from the concrete vine
We’re taking a break from our clothes
And killing time

And I see you
Like a vision you appear
From the window I try to tell you something
But you don’t hear

This is no time for a heartbreak
The summer’s long and unwinds ahead
My only crime is love for love’s sake
Is all I said

And you’re there
Pretending not to see me
In my head
Climbing on my roof in your high-heeled shoes
Looks can be deceiving
In my mind a thousand times
In my mind a thousand times

You turn around
And you see my look is sincere
For a moment you let down your guard
And that toughness disappears

One thing leads to another
I call you now by your first name
The days grow shorter and shorter
And the summer wanes

Chorus

We’ll drown in this horrible summer
Three stories up from the concrete vine
We’re taking a break from our clothes
And killing time

Chorus
Track Name: Everything Is New
Everything Is New The First Time


Everyone is silent and civil
But our issues are obvious
And our burdens are heavy
But we’ll keep them a lifetime

And it’s alright to wonder
Everything is new the first time
It’s all right to wonder
Everything is new the first time
It’s all right to wonder
Everything is new the first time

A simple glance in a photo
Gives more away
Than the little sweet things
We whisper at bedtime

And we distance ourselves
From an unavoidable future
With ritual things
That fill up our days

Chorus

And she watches the moon
Waxing and waning
Until the day when
She’ll no longer notice
And she’ll look at the stars
Far off in the distance
Wonder what they look like
Through the eyes of a child
That’s seeing them
For the first time
That’s seeing them
For the first time
That’s seeing them…

Chorus
Track Name: Give It All Away
Give It All Away

You look so cold standing alone out there
And your breath looks even harder than your stare
But you’re better off not knowing certain things
About what the future brings
How you say
You’re gonna give it all away

Cause you never take that hard look at yourself
To see the naïve little girl stuck on the shelf
With a lust-infected heart you gave
Us a goddess in the waves
Until you gave it all away

Life can seem so cheap out on the edge
But the moment means so much out on the ledge
And you barely know what you’re able to do
But you’ll see it though another day
Won’t you give it all away?

Won’t you leave with me today?
I think you’re old enough to say
I am I
And I don’t mind
I think your heart’s in the right place
But you hide it in your face
You hide it well
You hide it well

Left to my own devices, yes it’s true
That I’m left a faded version of you
And it’s dangerous to share those secret thoughts
But It’s harder to make them stop
Then let them stay
Won’t you give it all away?
Won’t you give it all away?
Won’t you give it all away?
Won’t you give it all away?
Track Name: Both Sides
Both Sides

Getting’ squeezed from both sides
Along for the ride
This world can be so hard
When you don’t want to play by the rules
I’m a fool

A bad seed
I can’t breath
You tell me it’s okay

Then you offer me a place to stay
It’s time for me to leave anyway

Getting’ squeezed from both sides
Along for the ride
This world can be so hard
When you don’t want to play by the rules
I’m a fool

A bad seed
I can’t breath
You tell me it’s okay
Track Name: Dressed In White
Dressed In White (Malcolm Holcombe)

Candles in the window
Flashing through the night
In the room upstairs a woman
In my mind all dressed in white

Words wrapped up in losing
Hammered to a wall
In a dirty city searching
In my mind all dressed in white

Dressed in white forever
Calling for the best
The best her father offered
In my mind all dressed in white

Paul was single man
Great as many been told
People come and go and why?
In my mind all dressed in white

Chorus

(Pedal break)

Candles in the window
Flashing through the night
In the room upstairs a woman
In my mind all dressed in white

Chorus 2X
Track Name: I Feel More Like I Did Back Then (Than I Do Right Now)
I Feel More Like I Did Back Then (Than I Do Right Now)

The Virgin Mary’s on the rag
Joseph decides to go stag
The crows begin to circle
And the wolves do howl
I feel more like I did back then
Than I do right now

Immortality’s that fragile dream
That old men dote upon and preen
They try to keep their noses clean
Before their final hour
I feel more like I did back then
Than I do right now
I feel more like I did back then
Than I do right now

The apple’s been plucked from the tree
The honey’s been gathered by the bee
It appealed to the worst in me
My salivating jowls
I feel more like I did back then
Than I do right now
I feel more like I did back then
Than I do right now

Judas is on the ascent
He says make an offer to repent
It comes down to dollars and cents
Religion’s a cash cow
I feel more like I did back then
Than I do right now
I feel more like I did back then
Than I do right now

The shaking keeps the flies at bay
But they’ve set their sights
They’re here to stay
There’s no one left to talk to
That’s worth a damn anyhow
I feel more like I did back then
Than I do right now
I feel more like I did back then
Than I do right now
I feel more like I did back then
Than I do right now