From time to time, we receive requests to review a new disc, usually from a small or independent label, or a self-release. Such is the case with David Smith's 'Fastest Machine' CD, and, I'll start by simply saying "Wow"! Upon first listen, I was immediately overwhelmed. One doesn't usually expect this caliber of musicianship, songwriting and craftsmanship from these requested listens. This disc is not only a standout among the demo-discs we receive, but is a standout among the mainstream label releases of 2004. At 35 minutes, it's all good from beginning to end, not a second wasted.
Smith seems to fall into a similar category with Joe Henry, Lisa Germano, early "E" (pre-Eels), Nick Drake and Elliot Smith. The feel and mood of sad-core, slightly off-kilter, never quite fitting in...a carny as observer at a somewhat twisted, heavy circus - emotional, sensitive, alternative folk-rock. The music is interesting, beautifully flowing chord structures of acoustic guitar, drums and bass, textured wonderfully with various atmospheric background sounds: a distorted electric guitar stab, piano highlights, a gurgling synthesizer, muted crowd noise - all contributing to an ethereal, unreal feeling...an abnormal mood, if you will, that suits the lyrics perfectly.
Smith pens all 10 tunes here, populating his songs with stories of the misunderstood, the misbegotten, the disillusioned, the lost and struggling and searching, strangers and losers and loners...the left out and left behind, those who don't quite fit in. His spirit and soul have obviously been battered and bruised, and he wears his heart on his sleeve...emotions laid bare in the sensitive carnival of life. This music will touch the heart of many a dreamer and romantic.
The recording is very well done, and Smith's beautiful mid-range vocals are as smooth as honey and as clear as a mountain stream. He has one of the most singularly impressive voices this reviewer has heard in some time, and, on this disc, it's up front and in your face immediate. (At times he harmonizes with himself, doubling the pleasure.) There is no mention of another musician on this disc except drummer Jason Bedard, so we take it Smith plays all other instruments. Very impressive! His acoustic guitar work is especially noteable.
The last two new artists I can remember being mightily impressed by upon first listen are Los Lonely Boys and Damien Rice. David Smith is now the latest to join that esteemed company. His singing and songwriting are world-class and leagues better than the latest pack of Pete Yorns and Josh Rouses and the like. His arrangements of his own songs flavor them in a unique way, making them his alone. David Smith is a major new talent, bettering most of the newer troubadors by leaps and bounds. Labels - start your bidding here and now! Friends, if you can find this disc, buy it! If you can't, ask for it! You heard it here first!
Release Date: Summer 2004
Tracks: 10 - Time: 34:12
Produced by: Simon Widdowson
Cheap Seats / Crush and Flow / Construct / Fastest Machine / Hopelessly Misunderstood / Losing Ground / No Concern / Signal/ From You to Me / Just a Phase.
David Smith: Vocals / Guitar
Jason Bedard: Drums