Michael C Smith brings boozy soul to Americana with LP "Prophet on the Barstool"
by: Nicole Banister
Michael C Smith is no doubt one of the hardest working songwriters in Atlanta. The songs just come streaming out, whether through EPs or weekly through Project 52. But his newest work, the LP Prophet on the Barstool, spans widest and deepest yet, tugging on the heartstrings by calling upon both personal and universal truths often learned the hard way, with themes understood in any language.
Prophet on the Barstool was completely fan-funded through Kickstarter and recorded at The Cottage with Damon Moon, himself a veteran in the Americana/folk vein that runs deep in the city. The finished product reflects Moon's sensibilities; the songs sound both lush and sparse at the same time, old and new somehow, just like the melodies themselves.
The material, all of which was written by Smith, draws from personal family history in many places, and the emotion, sometimes gloriously thick on Smith's tongue, is often apparent. The title of the album, a line from the track "West Virginia Lung", is very fitting; each song seems to represent a memory of some old barfly, a man who has sat at the same place in the same dive six nights a week for 15 years. Watching patrons live their lives, feeling somehow connected and yet still the watchful narrator, the barfly sees everyone's triumphs and falls, including his own, deluded through pub sing-a-longs and jukebox romances.
Foot-stompers like "90&9" and "Great Ocean" beg for a ramble down Main Street USA, apple pie moonshine in the listener's mason jar. Tracks like "Cold Hallelujah" and "Stolen Crown" seem more like dirges, beers emptied on the grass, now empty barstools revered until time is forgotten.
The entirety of the album reads like a trip to your hometown. One filled with memories, good and bad. The reminder that any bad blood you feel coming home is usually rooted deep inside, the memory versus reality of who you were versus who you are, and that the battle you often fight is with yourself.