Chris Smither: Train HomeHighTone Records; www.hightone.com.
chris smither is an earthy metaphysician, spinning off lines like "Now is what can be, all the rest is wait and see" ("Train Home") and "Awww, man, they took my car, rode away in my ride, I know attachment is the root of my suffering cuz it hurts me, it hurts me deep inside" ("Let It Go"). With such lyrics, he weaves wisdom and compassion into tight folk and pop tunes as effortlessly as he fingerpicks dazzling acoustic guitar licks rooted in Delta blues. This is the 11th album from this 59-year-old New Orleans–bred, Boston-based troubadour, and it may be his best from a recording career that spans 30 years. It balances deep self-examination with wry self-deprecation. Singing in an amiable near-mumble with minimal accompaniment, most notably from producer and multi-instrumentalist David Goodrich, Smither explores the meaning of life, death, craving, and surrender with gentle authority.
Derk Richardson is a longtime YJ contributor who also writes about popular culture for SFGate (www.sfgate.com), Acoustic Guitar magazine, and other publications.