Chris Smither picked up the guitar as a boy in New Orleans, honed his skills in the Boston coffeehouse scene of the late '60s, wrote songs like "Love You Like a Man," for Bonnie Raitt, disappeared into a 12-year-drunk, then returned with a vengeance, his fluid, Delta-steeped finger-picking accompanied by a voice that NPR has called equal parts molasses and gravel.
Playing In his fifth decade, Smither comes to town to support his latest mix of traditional songs and weathered originals. You can hear the title track of Leave The Light On at his Web site, where he says, "I had to go through all the horrible stuff to get where I am now. It's part and parcel of the animal that's walking around today. It's unfortunate that I stayed so unproductive for so long, but at the same time, I couldn't write the kind of stuff that I write now if I hadn't gone through it. I wouldn't realize what it is to be a humannot really. I might think I did, but it wouldn't be the same." That animal plays Friday night at the World Cafe Live.
I grew real familiar with Gomez the summer of 2000, while tooling around Montenegro, sampling the excellent grilled meats and trying to avoid Milosevic's troops. We had one cassette with us - it had Aimee Mann's Magnolia on one side and Gomez's Liquid Skin one the other. I knew the Brit rockers first from a Philips TV commercial that featured Ben Ottewell's warm growl covering the Beatles "Getting Better." But to this day, I cannot hear "The Revolutionary Kind" without thinking of my translator/driver Jovo whipping around impassible gray mountains in a dented rental car . That cassette, left by mistake in his car, probably accounts for the popularity of these fair boys in that tough little Balkan rump of a country. You can hear them from that CD here, playing the lovely cello-led "We Haven't Turned Around." Of their new CD, How We Operate, Stylus writes of the "shaken-not-stirred virtue of maturity." Billboard calls it the band's finest effort in its decade-long run. One more reason to listen? AllMusic Guide, which says it's "full of ingenious little hooks, fine singing, poetics and to-the-point lyrics, and cool guitars." Saturday at the TLA with Matt Pond, Pa., who provides this bit of holiday cheer.