What's Been Said About The Music Of SMITHFIELD FAIR(updated 12/8/19) 


With its existence inching towards the half-century mark—46 years to be exact—Smithfield Fair is believed to be the longest running folk/singer-songwriter aggregation in the Pelican State. But even so, its 32nd album, an all-original spiritual release, is still a career first. Though six of the 14 tunes may be found on previous offerings, eight others make their grand debut. Yet, regardless whether it’s heritage or brand spanking new, every track is a fresh recording, so everything sounds like a live performance. Even better is how the proceedings are never heavy-handed or a fire-and-brimstone smack in your face. Rather, they’re soul-felt, honest reflections of celebration, salvation, admittance, reassurance and anticipation of the eternal afterlife—all fodder for meditation. Smithfield Fair bookends it brilliantly, opening with a vivid reprisal of “God Never Sleeps” written by vocalist/accordionist Jan Smith. It’s four in the morning and the protagonist is star-gazing out the window, absorbed with the shattering news of the day’s tragedy. But realizing God’s close by (hence, he never sleeps), she feels comfort and strength to carry on. The penultimate track “God Bless the Weary” advocates opening one’s heart to the Almighty. It isn’t an unexpected message for fare such as this, but the final ode “I Am Weary” certainly is. It’s a surprisingly strong admission of one’s own mortality and willingness, when it’s time, to leave this earthly life behind. Indeed, the spirit moves here.  - Review of GOSPELESQUE by Dan Willging, December 2019, Offbeat Magazine

Regardless of source, bundling these instrumentals together allows SF’s instrumental virtuosity and keen compositional abilities to be more salient. ...“The March of Time” starts with a sinister guitar part and thackety rhythms before Jan’s accordion seizes control and soars to triumphant heights. And like it began, the foreboding guitar part returns, only to end the composition softly. Several accordion-fueled melodies are celebratory or processional in nature. Percussion plays a big role as well, sometimes with a touch of mysticism or clanking objects for a snappy beat. Though this is an album of surprises, “Snow Child,” a gorgeous, introspective piano composition, is perhaps its biggest. At the outset, Jan commands hair-raising attention by striking a few high ivories before rolling gently along. Admittedly, it’s not her natural instrument to compose on, but like the rest of this, it sounds just as inspired and natural. - Excerpts from review of "Marbles" by Dan Willging, Offbeat Magazine (excerpt), October 2015

Over the course of 41 years as Charmer and its successor Smithfield Fair, the Brothers Smith (Dudley-Brian, Bob and Joel) have not always had the luxury of performing together at the same time. Six tracks (here) find all the Smiths (plus Dudley-Brian’s wife Jan) making new music together, which is among the most enjoyable stuff this group has ever waxed. Stephen Foster’s “Hard Time Come Again No More,” offers breathtaking, resounding harmonies, as if it were a centuries-old Scottish ballad, not something by a 19th-century American songwriter. With these performances, the thought of a full–length brother (plus one) album with new material sounds appealing. The other 14 tracks here hail from the Charmer era but were never released on CD after its vinyl-and-cassette heyday. Though it all feels like Charmer/Smithfield Fair-style folk, some tracks literally surprise, such as Jan’s “Cuckoo,” with its show tune flair, and “Fishlips,” featuring Dudley-Brian’s killer slide-guitar groove. The mastering blends the old and the new so well that it’s relatively seamless, especially considering that these tracks span 33 years. - Dan Willging, Offbeat Magazine (excerpt), August 2014

One thing about longevity is that you get to take a good look at life. (Smithfield Fair has) learned how to take their life experiences and spin them into musical stories. Their musicianship...is crisp and clean, and the harmonies are sweet as “hot buttered biscuits with syrup, yes, ma’am.” These folks are excellent in every way, if you get a chance to see them in your town, don’t miss them. - Kimmy Sophia Brown, Significato Magazine (excerpt), April 2014

Deep down inside, this quartet is, at its core, a folk band from a unique part of the country, and its 29th CD release, “Companions,” reflects the group’s beginnings in a superb way. The disc’s selections are almost like an old-school pinball, touching all the right pads as the musical point totals increase. “Companions” is an outstanding album, be it Celtic or folk, or whatever. Good music is good music! - Chuck Bloom, Ceili Magazine(excerpt), April 2014

Smithfield Fair is a polished and accomplished group. They have all the ingredients of the early classic folk groups – instrumental proficiency, good voices and songwriting ability. They create lush harmonies with their voices and instrumentation, and the songs tell the stories that especially resonate with baby boomer’s hearts. Falling in love again, blessing the salt of the earth, precious memories, flimflam men and life in the south. I found that last angle to be particularly interesting, since a lot of folk singers seem to be from the Northeast or California. These are Louisiana/Bayou memories, about manners, and fine ladies, and hot weather. The first two songs, “A Second Cup of Coffee” and “Sweet Sugar Cane” both have catchy tunes – in fact, I had “Sweet Sugar Cane” playing in my head for weeks. These folks have their creative juices flowing. Something in their sound reminds me of Robin and Linda Williams. Because of their excellent musicianship, they seem to be able to interpret almost any musical style. This is a really catchy, touching, gem of an album. - Kimmy Sophia Brown, Significato Magazine (excerpt), Oct 16, 2013

Stick, Brick & Mortar marks Smithfield Fair’s 28th album of a 40-year career as a family band that started with Charmer in 1973 and its current name, changed in ’89, when it pursued trad-style Scottish music for 14 years. Though the Baton Rouge-based trio still occasionally performs Scottish music, a decade ago it returned to the Charmer-styled, hope-filled folk music while retaining the Smithfield Fair name. This baker’s dozen worth of tracks couldn’t be a truer return-to-roots affair with practically every tune being inspired by road trips along Highway 71 between Krotz Springs and Alexandria. There are tales about the old swing dancehall (“Blue Moon Café”) and nomadic con men (“Not What It Seems”) as well as impressionistic sketches like the snappy “Sweet Sugar Cane” and the all-too-brief instrumental title track, a reference to simple countryside churches. A theme of memories also prevails. The tender ballad “I Remember You,” sung beautifully by Dudley-Brian Smith, is about how death brings people together. Though the mid–tempo, mellow-ish arrangements allow Dudley-Brian and Bob Smith’s blood harmonies to stretch, soar and feel the emotion, they oftentimes are topped by Jan’s haunting vocals (“A Second Cup”). On two tracks, she astounds with subtle cascading chords on her piano-note accordion. Smithfield Fair isn’t about being stars and virtuosos but making beautiful music together as a group of ego-less, team-oriented devotees, perhaps the underlying secret to its longevity. - Dan Willging, Offbeat Magazine

…the reason for their longevity is that they continue to release timeless "folk music". The opening track - "A Second Cup", like the opening on their "Every New Day" album has the rousing sound of the Weavers (with Jan Smith's voice taking the Ronnie Gilbert role). There are great harmonies and…will have you singing along, just like at a Weavers concert. …if you like the older folk group sound of the 1960s, you should at least sample this album as well their previous 27!. - Steve Ramm, Anything Phonographic

I hope I will be forgiven for listening to Smithfield Fair for only the first time on this (Every New Day), their 27th album in 39 years. The album clearly shows a mature professional band that has full command of their folk sound. This is a family affair reminiscent of a Carthy-Watersons album. However, this contains a bit more modern sounding songs (maybe like Show of Hands) and all of them are original. There is a nice mix of folk with a traditional base as well as good singer-songwriter light rock. There are some nice shifts like the wistful solo piano on "Snow Child" as it leads into a worldly song like "Just a Lullaby". Although I am comparing them to the Watersons, I should note that they are from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is another part of the world that takes pride in their great musical traditions. Smithfield Fair certainly are a part of that great musical culture in southern Louisiana. - David Hintz, Folkworld Magazine (Europe)

The warm live quality of the songs makes you feel like you have old friends sitting with you, playing songs from the heart. ...this is a CD that will delight young and old... Get a copy for your collection. It’s a real charmer. - C. Michael Price, Ceili Magazine

For 20 years...Smithfield Fair has managed to blend original, Celtic-based songs with aspects of bluegrass, Appalachian, and other forms of American music. The quartet features Dudley-Brian Smith's powerful guitar playing, singing, and songwriting; Jan Smith's melodic and ethereal accordion work and adept vocals and harmonies; Bob Smith's rock-steady and solid bass; and the singularly named Frang's percussion. The general subject matter tends toward Scottish songs, such as the driving Longships, the Dougie Maclean-influenced James of the Glen, the melodic My Heart's in the Highlands, and the majestic Moon Over Caledonia. This compilation (20420) gathers 20 tracks ...and certainly represents a very best of this unique and passionate band. - Lahri Bond, Dirty Linen Magazine

Charmer was an acoustic and vocal quartet that featured Dudley-Brian Smith, Jan and Bob Smith, and brother Joel on guitar and vocals. Unlike Smithfield Fair, Charmer focused more on American singer/songwriter content with a very strong melodic and harmony-centered approach. The Perfect Cafe is a 20-song 'best of' collection of original material from their eight albums over a 16-year run. There were strong influences of contemporary writers including Dan Fogelberg, Jesse Winchester, Michael Brewer and Tom Shipley in the group's timeless Americana approach, and songs such as 'Flying High', 'Wishing Well', 'Compassion in the Crowd', and 'Rebecca' demonstrated them to be accomplished writers and musicians. The Perfect Cafe is a chance to rediscover a band that should have received wider recognition for its excellent music. - Lahri Bond, Dirty Linen Magazine

This dedicated Scottish trio has created a lovely album (Winds of Time)  comprised wholly of original tunes that play up each band member's strengths. It's one thing to write songs, but quite another to craft music and lyrics that sound for all the world like they have the weight of a hundred years or more behind them. …a worthy accomplishment in my book. Smithfield Fair is an uncommonly subtle band, and that trait shows in its music. …suddenly I was struck by a rapid succession of "where did this gem come from?" It's good stuff, but you don't realize how good until you've had time to savor it. Unpretentious and earnest, the 17 songs included here are all worthy efforts and offer a pleasant evening's listening. Many of the compositions here already sound like they've been performed at gatherings for decades, if not centuries. More than simple pastiche, this music captures the spirit of older folk and Scottish songs, and if the end result isn't modern, then at least it's timeless. In the long run, that's probably a nobler achievement. - Jamie Lynn Blaschke, Green Man Review

It’s a global wind that blows through Smithfield Fair’s latest CD (Winds of Time).  It tosses about eternal themes of lost loves, yearnings for days that will never return and the ultimate sadness of being alone.  The influence of their Celtic roots is strong, in both the musical composition and themes, but all of the songs and the message at their heart belong to the whole world.  The musicianship is outstanding and I appreciated the fact that the instruments never overwhelmed the message and the beauty of the words. I’ve been a folk music fan for forty years and this CD resounds with the same truth, grace and courage of the traditional songs of Ireland, Scotland and Appalachia.  Universal messages, universal stories, but told in a unique and original way.  Smithfield Fair continues to grow finer with each passing year. - Gail Roberts, SCMA Ceilidh Magazine

Smithfield Fair lays down more original music with its 10th effort. The group may draw its strength from Bonnie Scotland, but its folksy original sound also pulls from jazz and other influences - Alex V. Cook, 225 Magazine

Smithfield Fair, an almost-impossible-to-categorize folk/roots band has mesmerized audiences worldwide over the radio, television, film, clubs and concert halls...has earned praise for its tight arrangements, elegant song selection and some of the most haunting vocal harmonies this side of heaven. - R.U. Eddy, GrisGris Magazine

...breezy arrangements, gliding accordion lines, sustaining harmony notes and feathery guitar picking all done at an unhurried pace. Smithfield Fair always manages to state its point with positive reassurance and calming poise. From the sounds of it, Smithfield Fair seems to be walking through this world just fine, thank you, and savoring every minute of it.Dan Willging, Offbeat Magazine

…based around strong songs with strong harmonies taken from or drawing on Scottish traditional sources, presented in uncluttered arrangements…hearty singers and capable multi-instrumentalists.Tom Nelligan, Dirty Linen Magazine

…much like a folksy Supertramp. … weaves traditional tunes with Smithfield originals and other modern songs, leaving you none the wiser which is which as they are each so good. They’re well worth the price if you have the chance to see them perform. – U.S. SCOTS Magazine

…overall reminded me of early Clannad… Dudley-Brian Smith's rapid-fire guitar reminds me of the flamenco stylings of the Gypsy Kings. I've come to expect nothing less from Smithfield Fair. – Jayme Lynn Blaschke, Green Man Review

What began for me as an experimental "listen" to an intriguing CD called Cairdeas would soon become so much more. My most recent experience with Smithfield Fair, in Jacobites By Name, proved absolutely captivating! My admiration for their music has now become a passion. Smithfield Fair captures the essence of the Scottish spirit, brings "the cause" to life and keeps the home fires burning in the most important of places -- the heart. – Lynne Remick, Rambles Cultural Arts Magazine

Traditional tunes abound, but the original songs sit comfortably side by side with them in a style influenced by traditional hymns rather than modern gospel or Christian rock, and even the traditional songs are often arranged in a fresh way or set to new tunes or lyrics. The playing, particularly Dudley-Brian Smith's mandolin playing, is wonderful, and the harmonies are exquisite. – Dave Soyars, Dirty Linen

Smithfield Fair's music is so evocative and timeless that it's worth mentioning in every page devoted to Scotland. – Max Malignino, Rainsound Magazine, Italy

What makes (this music) so viable revolves around how Smithfield Fair rolls it all into one cohesive whole. The harmony vocals are another strong point, subtle but reassuring. – Dan Willging, Off Beat Magazine

They found old, long-forgotten material and with it, new inspiration. – Debi Moen, Performance Magazine

…songs come heavily misted with the salt spray of Caledonia. – Danny Heitman, The Advocate, Baton Rouge


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