Even though she’s flown somewhat under the radar for much of her career, Valerie Smith has been flying fast and for a long time. This fabulous album is her 18th.
Renaissance showcases Smith’s penchant for everything from sorrowful and inspirational balladry (“Heart Of Sorrow, “Do You Know Where Your Heart is Tonight”) to hard-charging bluegrass and bluegrass-gospel, such as “The Great I Am” and an ode to a legendary race horse called “Big Red.”
Smith’s voice is, by turns, tender, sensual, sultry, sassy and imbued with captivating emotional nuance. “The River Whispers” is a gently flowing meditation on the healing power of nature. “Dancin’ With The Stars” is a delightfully sweet and swingy celebration of holding someone close in your heart, even when they are far away.
“I Found” is a particularly grippingly and somewhat enigmatic melodic meditation on love’s complexities, featuring cryptic lyrics:
I use you as a warning sign
If you talk enough sense you’ll lose your mind.
Over the years, Smith has collaborated with a host of luminaries, including Andy Leftwich, Sammy Shelor, Tom Grey, Jerry Salley, Donna Ulisse (all featured on this album), Claire Lynch, Becky Fuller, Ralph Stanley and Tom T. Hall. As this collection attests, she is, talent-wise, right up there in that same rarified league with them.
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