Emerging as a seasoned punk of the 1990s Seattle and Chicago scenes, Charlie Smyth has evolved a long way past his roots. Now, he’s contributing his chops as a songwriter and performer to the Americana circuit. Ergo, Smyth has found himself a world where he can keep rocking with a consciousness, but with a contemporary roots flair. There’s a respectable heaping of country and folk elements swirling with his rocking past on his forthcoming album, The Way I Feel (13 July). Although, like fellow Nashvillians, Nikki Lane and Aaron Lee Tasjan, this artist’s debut collection of studio work is a lot more than what some may have come to expect out of alt-country.
His reworking of a Neil Diamond classic helps seal that deal. Smyth’s rendition of “Beautiful Noise” is ushered in with a rich, vibrant collection of horns. From there, a whole, rollicking world of sound unfurls around him, complete with a swath of guitar work, gorgeous backing vocals, and fluttering fiddle that stoke the fires of its traditional folk influences.
“While rummaging through thrift-store vinyl I noticed Robbie Robertson’s name emblazoned across the cover of a Neil Diamond record, announcing him as the producer,” Smyth tells PopMatters. “I was familiar enough with the Band to be confused and intrigued so I purchased the album Beautiful Noise for 25 cents.”
“I had not given Neil a listen before and was startled by the depth of feeling and conviction that he imparted on what was on face value a rather bombastic and trite song. He somehow made the trope of ‘music in the air of the city finding its way into the heart of the songwriter’ seem fresh. As it turned out Robbie Robertson’s production was typical of the big studio over-reaching crassness of the period. Somehow I loved it anyway. The song fell into constant rotation on my ‘ drinking wine and DJ’ing for myself ‘ playlist. Eventually, I found myself putting it on at parties for friends. Finally, I started playing the dang thing myself and it ended up being the opening track on my album. Go figure.”
Smyth will also be hosting an album release show at the Local in Nashville on 13 July.