Andrew Smith,
Escape Velocity
(independent, 2005)

Escape Velocity -- the desire to escape the gravitational pull of the status quo -- is quite a title for Andrew Smith's new CD. Inviting the listener to join him, Smith takes us on a journey of wordless musical expression, telling evocative, authentic stories with percussive, exotic instrumentals.

Always on the lookout for strong singer-songwriters, I was prepared to dismiss a collection of instrumentals as uninspired and dull. This is anything but. As I listened to the CD, I was struck by the intensity and diversity of musical moods Smith was able to convey.

The title track sets the tone by asking us to break free of the status quo. Not just acoustic guitar playing but slapping and a unique right-hand technique reminiscent of Don Ross and Michael Hedges pull us instantly into Smith's artistry. The next tune, "Descente," marries baroque acoustic guitar with a beautiful cello counterpoint melody transporting us to days of gavottes and ladies-in-waiting.

"Holes in the Night Sky," one of two songs on the CD with words, is a moving portrait of lovers set against Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night" painting. It is a classic example of powerful lyrics, heartfelt vocals and great guitar playing. I was moved even more so when I read the dedication to a very young man who had passed away too soon. I was intrigued and eager for more.

I wasn't disappointed. "Democracy for Money" is a scary portrait of a drunken Lady Liberty dividing up the free world for money and power. The liner notes say this song was inspired by a dream; I can imagine how scary that was. Smith's lyrics are powerful, spare and infinitely thought-provoking. A sparse performance -- just guitar and vocals -- showcase them well.

There are a couple of songs on this CD written for Smith's daughters, "Avi Girl" and "Emma," and one song, "The Pilgrimage," about his own personal spiritual journey. I must admit, the latter was one of my favorite songs. There are definite Middle Eastern tones much like Lisa Gerrard and Dead Can Dance on this song, featuring the fretless bass work of Brian Wiebe and the lush voices of Tabitha LeMaire and Sherri Funk. It transported me. I think it a fitting ending to a CD that asked me to ... escape the status quo.

I would highly recommend this CD. It is certain to provide something to think about and a way to gently escape.

- Rambles
written by Jane Eamon
published 3 September 2005