Profound singer-songwriter and blues/folk guitarist
Born in Miami during World War II, Smither grew up in New Orleans where he first started playing music as a child. The son of a Tulane University professor, he was taught the rudiments of instrumentation by his uncle on his mother’s ukulele. “Uncle Howard,” Smither says, “showed me that if you knew three chords, you could play a lot of the songs you heard on the radio. And if you knew four chords, you could pretty much rule the world.” With that bit of knowledge under his belt, he was hooked. “I’d loved acoustic music—specifically the blues—ever since I first heard Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Blues In My Bottle album. I couldn’t believe the sound Hopkins got. At first, I thought it was two guys playing guitar. My style, to a degree, came out of trying to imitate that sound I heard.”
In his early twenties, Smither turned his back on his anthropology studies and headed to Boston at the urging of legendary folk singer Eric von Schmidt. It was the mid-60s, and acoustic music thrived in the streets and coffeehouses there. Smither forged lifelong friendships with many musicians, including Bonnie Raitt, who went on to record his songs “Love You Like a Man” and “I Feel the Same” (their friendship has endured as their career paths intertwined over the years). What quickly evolved from his New Orleans and Cambridge musical experiences is his lasting, singular guitar sound—beat-driven fingerpicking, strongly influenced by the playing of Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin’ Hopkins, layered over the ever-present backbeat of his rhythmic, tapping feet (always mic’d in performance).
Smither released his first two albums, I’m a Stranger Too! and Don’t It Drag On, in the early 70s, and by the 90s, his steady nationwide touring and regular releases of acclaimed albums cemented his reputation as one of the finest acoustic musicians in the country. Now, with 18 critically acclaimed albums to his name, he has collaborated with the likes of B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Nanci Griffith, Emmylou Harris, Diana Krall, Tim O’Brien, Ollabelle, Allen Toussaint and Loudon Wainwright III, to name a few.
The most recent album from the iconic bluesman, More From The Levee (2020), is a brilliant continuation of Smither’s 50-year retrospective album Still On The Levee (2014). Reconnecting with his roots, Smither recorded the career-spanning double album in New Orleans at the fabled Music Shed.
Deemed “one of the absolute best singer-songwriters in the world” (Associated Press), it’s no wonder why fans from around the world continue to fill venue after venue, eager for the galvanizing ride of a Chris Smither concert.