Tuesday, February 2, 2010
SMOKE - Clean White Bed (Another Reason to Fast,1995)
Jazz, blues, rock, country -- Cabbagetown, GA's Smoke (ex-Opal Foxx Quartet, Jody Grind) was so much more than the sum of its parts. Smoke's essence was unfailingly unique: strangely familiar music running up the spine of the band's odd instrumentation while touchingly disjointed personal anecdotes growl out the ragged vocal cords of bandleader Benjamin Smoke. Rather than alienating listeners with its strange brew, Smoke conjures something queerly beautiful with Another Reason to Fast that transcends gender so completely, and squeezes your own spine so, that writing about it is necessary only to proselytize for the man and his band -- not to approximate their innately Southern, ramshackle, and magical music. But Benjamin Smoke is not a myth, or a saint. He is an artist and a singer, and you need to hear this album.
That mournful cornet and those iron strings bowed across those wooden necks! Benjamin's pained voice singing weary, world-wise lyrics: "All the boys I thought beautiful/ are dead now or in law school." He was a larger-than-life, dress-wearing drug addict, but the only thing the world cares about now is this music. That's all the world should have cared about before. Great stuff and in a better world he'd be better known. In a better world drugs wouldn't have dragged him down I suppose.