Misner & Smith,
Seven Hour Storm
(independent, 2014)

Sam Misner and Megan Smith met as actors, working in plays together. A couple of years after they first met, they were both cast in Woody Guthrie's American Song and, over the run of that show, they teamed up. Here is my thought: working in the Guthrie show (which they have played more than 100 times) they had the benefit of Guthrie's songwriting; in other words, great material. In Seven Hour Storm, they write it and, while few people are, these guys certainly aren't Woody Guthrie.

Most of their stuff can best be described as pleasant. It is inoffensive music that has no spine, no bristles to it. You'd think that a couple of actors would know the importance of performing a song, but if they do, they choose not to. The melodies of these songs are bare bones, all fingerpicked guitar with a bass playing mostly the first and fifth. And Misner is way too fond of ending his songs with an upstrum. The singing? Well, they hit the notes and that seems to be their goal. No lyrics are sold, nothing is emphasized and the pair appears to be afraid of not sounding pretty.

Folk music is simple, yes, but it isn't uncomplicated. When you're singing about strong emotions, you need to create those emotions in yourself and in the audience. Every actor knows that; it's the basis of his art. Yet, as singers Misner and Smith seem to have forgotten that simple imperative. It isn't enough to be pretty; it has to be real.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

5 April 2014

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