James Coberly Smith,
(self-produced, 2001)

In the little write-up that accompanies Cocomo, Paul Zollo calls James Coberly Smith a sort of musical anachronism. What he means is that Smith's no-frizzles music seems somehow out-of-sync with the high-tech 21st century. That may be so, but on the other hand, his music has also a distinct urban groove.

Wisconsin-born Smith has built quite a reputation for himself in the L.A. club circuit, but he is also well-known for his joint performances with Californian native Severin Browne. (See my review of This Twisted Road.)

The music of the gregarious Smith betrays a tremendous sense of humor, but there is also a much more subdued side. In fact, Smith's songs cover the whole emotional spectrum.

Cocomo is one of Smith's two CD albums so far. The 12 tracks have been divided in two parts. The first section contains the impressive eulogy "Valley of the Kings," dedicated to the memory of Bruce Ogden. The lyrics are simple but impressive, expressing both grief and solace. It is followed by a beautiful love song, "Maryann," and you will find here also the almost painful despair of the lament "If You Leave Before Me." But the gloomy mood is balanced by much more light-hearted stuff, like the opening performance on "Flypaper Highway" and the live performance "Cocomo Joe's."

Part Two opens with the endearing "Count Your Blessings," an impromptu live performance with a bunch of kids, but then takes us quickly to the smoky nightclub atmosphere of "Bad Ideas." We enter even darker shadows with the tense stand-off in "Mabel" and the melancholic "Where Did My Hope Go." But before we can start wallowing in choleric depression, Smith makes us raise our heads again with the uplifting "Unprotected Heart." The thoughtful lyrics are a plea for a vulnerable opening up to the surrounding world, showing that our troubadour is also quite the philosopher.

Smith finally leaves us with the fairytale-like "Mooshi Mooshi Yak Yak." This upbeat tropical tune conjures up images of Pacific Paradise, Polynesian Islands. And oh, don't forget to stay tuned in after the last track, as Smith looks around for a "hidden track"....

- Rambles
written by Carool Kersten
published 31 May 2003

[ visit the artist's website ]