Field of Crows
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2006, Volume 13, #3
Written by Brian Baker
At this point in Darden Smithís career, it would be easy either to praise him faintly or to dismiss him lightly. After all, Field of Crows, his ninth album, is a pleasant enough experience, and throughout the effort, Smithís honeyed voice floats above his meticulous but airily arranged electric, folk/pop soundtrack ó so much so that it inspires neither celebratory hand springs nor outright revulsion. It all just seems so polite, and therein lies the greatest danger in a cursory examination of the outing. Lurking beneath the surface of Smithís seemingly innocuous veneer is a set of material that not only is deceptively wistful in its musical presentation but also is rife with plenty of disconcerting lyrical imagery. Part of the deception is found in the titles to his songs. Talk Me Down, for example, isnít about condescension; itís about suicide, be it literal or metaphorical. Likewise, Golden Age isnít about the best of times; itís about the worst of times, or as he puts it, "the golden age of pain." With its laconic Beatles-via-Marc Cohn melodiousness, Anyway is a prime example of Smithís dichotomy, and it smooths the way for his David Baerwald-like lyrics of recrimination and resignation ("You spread your love like broken glass/Beautiful to see/Lead me down the garden path/Trying to make me bleed"). Like the bird after which he named his new album, Smithís work initially appears to be monochromatic and only mildly interesting, but if studied carefully, it reveals itself to be surprisingly full of wicked complexity and passionate intelligence.
Editor's Note: This article has been edited and reprinted with the full
permission of Country Standard Time.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box