Darden Smith Playbill

I'd heard of Darden Smith for years but never seen him or given him a fair listen. His reputation preceded him; my impression was of a wan, mopey, earnest, trying-so-hard-to-be-meaningful balladeer. That all changed when I got a dose of Sunflower (2002). It certainly wasn't party music, but Smith definitely had something out of the ordinary, something deeply soulful and brilliantly thoughtful that separated him from the rest of the Texas music schtick. In 2004, Circo confirmed this in spades. While both of these albums took long turns in my CD player, it is Smith's current release Field of Crows that has turned me into a full-fledged fan.

Like Randy Weeks' brilliant Sugarfinger and Jon Dee Graham's brooding Full , Field of Crows ranks up there with the best roots music of 2006. Like Weeks and Graham, Smith conjures painfully recognizable, entirely believable characters, and he invents plots and lines that are 100% adult. There may be no more heartbreaking divorce song in 2006 than "Mary" ("There's no time to run and play / It's your mother's wedding day") and no better love song than "Satisfied." Smith's work is chock full of Eric Taylor qualities and reaches an emotional depth few approach. - William Michael Smith

Darden Smith performs Thursday, December 7, at Mc Gonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 713-528-5959. Mark Erelli also performs.

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