6 String Ranch 2020
Carpe diem on unplugged terms: Texan six-stringer gives a new lease of life to a tuneful heirloom.
Here’s the sort of record one would expect from Matt Smith after looking up the Austin artist’s profile, wherein the list of his vocations includes a “clinician” entry, yet while the sonics of this album are academically clean – a testament to love that the performer’s family handled their parlor guitar with since 1890s – its style is as elegantly eclectic as an acoustic lace can get. There’s no voice now as music does all the talking – or, rather, chisels out chamber mischief which has been attached to each of the pieces here, all the Renaissance-esque reflective improvisations and carefully crafted gypsy jazz extravaganzas, some of those not reaching a two-minute mark but grasping the listener’s focus and letting go after an alternately fast and slow burst of energy.
Although this temporal shift might be best summarized by “After The Gold Rush” – the only cover on display and surprisingly immersive at that, given its new, instrumental shape – Smith’s originals such as “Spring In My Step” trade retro feel for modern vigor to contrast sentimental ballads like “Dressing For Church” and “First Love” which shed a brighter light on Matt’s technique than blistering opener “29th Street Rag” or “Desert Meditation” whose deep raga runs seem to be too in-your-face. Vice versa, “Blues In The Parlor” is too ethereal to be taken to the Crossroads, yet the sound of fingers sliding up and down the fretboard makes the player’s approach very intimate, and the deft finale “That’s All Folks!” – invoking the classic “Looney Tunes” era – renders the album’s raw and brief exquisiteness all the more alluring.
Academic or not, “Parlor” must become a valuable exhibit of Matt Smith’s impeccable taste and ability to seize the fleeting moment.