By Alice Teeple
Photos by Alice Teeple
Christine Smith takes a drag from her well-deserved cigarette outside the Bowery Electric. She’s just wrapped a spectacular solo performance for her sophomore album release, Meet Me On The Far Side Of A Star. It’s fitting this album made its debut in the intimate Map Room: its twinkling, celestial backdrop placing Smith in a sort of netherworld somewhere between Weimar Berlin and Major Tom’s shuttle.
“Oh dear! Looks like I’m molting,” she chuckles, as several wisps of black marabou feathers float from her dress to the sidewalk. She stamps out her smoke, signs a CD for a fan, and warmly greets old friends who came to see the songstress on her former stomping grounds.
The Bowery is foggy, with a damp chill in the air: the kind of weather that reluctantly welcomes nostalgia and melancholy. This night, Smith served as the ferrywoman, steering the boat with electric piano keys and a small red Spanish accordion, through an emotive display of loss, longing, and regret. Christine Smith treads the line between days gone by and harsh modernity. She ruefully gazes back at the storms of the past with wry observation, hard-fought wisdom, and persistent optimism. She is a seasoned warrior armed with wit, poetic dreams and a delicious glass of red to calm those tides.
Smith’s seen her fair share of touring and recording over the last twenty years, having played with Crash Test Dummies, Jesse Malin, and Ryan Adams; as well as sharing the stage with Bruce Springsteen, Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan, Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group, and H.R. of Bad Brains.
With such a punk/rock background, it’s astonishing to hear Smith’s own gentle, conversational voice and classic piano plucked straight out of a 1930s cabaret. It turns out that during her early days living as an ex-pat in London, Smith supported herself playing jazz standards. From there she served as the musical director for Newsrevue (London’s longest-running satire show).
There are strong elements of the Great American Songbook in this album, but Smith proudly wears her other influences on her sleeve – echoes of Petula Clark here, some Patti Smith there, some Simon LeBon flair, sprinkled with a bit of Angelo Badalamenti and 1950s doo-wop. She is a shining result of her eclectic tastes and influences. Her autobiography will be one hell of an incredible read one day.
Meet Me On The Far Side Of A Star began as a collaboration with Texas singer-songwriter Victor Camozzi, who shared Smith’s passion for 1930s-40s American classics. A year and some massive life shifts later, Smith’s “achingly beautiful” masterpiece was finished. Meet Me On The Far Side Of A Star is an artistic triumph. Rolling Stone recently praised her track Happily Never After (featuring Tommy Stinson of the Replacements) as a top ten Country/Americana song of 2019. One hopes that Christine Smith keeps exploring her own voice and draws more from her deep well of experience and compassion.
The album is available for purchase here.
It can also be streamed here:
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