Doug B. Smith,
A Slight Remove
(Sabre, 2002)

There are a lot of unusual sounds on this CD. Unusual guitar sounds. Well, there's also slide guitar, banjo, mandolin, lap-steel, fender strat, bass, fretless bass and fiddle. Assisted by Lenny Harvey, Nigel Portman-Smith, Pick Withers and Steve Simpson, Doug B. Smith offers some very smooth picking and some dynamic pattering. I think Doug is working on showing his appreciation for Muddy Waters, the deep south and blues by attempting a similar blend with guitar and voice.

For the most part, he succeeds. With a husky, down-and-out voice when he does "Devil Had a Hold of Me" and great guitar playing to back it up, he intrigued me. The vocals he adds to "I Was Young When I Left Home" were softer and interrupted the guitar, so it didn't appeal to me as much. The same with "King of the World," a tune he dedicates to Sonny Liston, because his voice is more of a whisper than deep and smoky. "Walking Boss" brings back the smoky flavour and a driving rhythm for an energetic piece of music.

I'm not sure I appreciated the breathy whispers of "Goodnight Irene," either, but I found pleasure in "Magdalen Laundry" because he goes back to the raspy, whisky-burnt voice again.

This CD jumps around in tone, from piquant blues to dreamy romantic. The change is a little irritating, but a minor component of this CD because I am really impressed with the instrumentals. Even those on the vocal tracks are a cut above good; it's just a little harder to appreciate them in the vocal mix.

My favorite tracks are the tunes "Under The Weather," "Hangin' Out," "Nervous Energy" and "A Slight Remove." All are D.B. Smith originals. There wasn't anything not to like in them, they were starched and pressed and ready to go; made of some of the best musical material I've put on in a while. "Devil Had a Hold Of Me" and then "Walking Boss" would be next on the list.

What we've got here is a hybrid, a package of mixed origins. With only a couple of vocal interpretations that misfire but an armful of instrumentals you can lose your soul in, Smith has an original sound, with overtones of blues, inspirational, maybe even a little Cajun. His versatile guitar creations will knock your socks off.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 22 March 2003