Jonah Smith – Jonah Smith (2007)
purchase this album (JRS Direct)
Smith bills himself as a “roots/soul singer-songwriter,” but musically, he’s less Bill Withers (or even Ray LaMontagne) than Amos Lee. Generationally, this makes perfect sense, and sonically, it might not matter much to most listeners, but for purists or fogey-eared soul fans, the distinction is liable to be a bit of a turnoff. All the parts are in place â€” Smith has a great band, and he writes fine songs â€” but there’s something distinctly Starbucksian about the way this album feels. Again, we’re talking fairly minor distinctions here, but if you’re looking for grit, you may wish to look elsewhere; Jonah Smith is easy like Sunday morning, and Jonah Smith the album carries the distinct odor of bacon and freshly brewed coffee.
This may not sound bad to you, and honestly, it really isn’t â€” I really enjoy Jonah Smith, and Smith himself is very talented; there are good reasons Bill Frisell and Garth Hudson made cameos on the record, and good reasons for Smith’s appearances on trusted AAA outlets like WXPN (home of our friend Bruce) and Acoustic Cafe. This is only Smith’s third record, and if he continues to build buzz (which I don’t imagine will be a problem), he’ll get the chance to grow into his influences. He’s going about it the right way, building slowly and playing the right gigs â€” I’m pissed I missed his shows with Martin Sexton â€” and anyway, the world needs more guys who play Rhodes piano and have a little bit of soul. I’m looking forward to hearing what a few thousand more miles on the pavement will do for Jonah Smith. In the meantime, check out “Little Black Angels” (download) and “Everything Is New” (download).