Jonah Smith has the range to write the simplest folk song or an orchestral arrangement and he does both on his new album, Little Known Cure. He wrote, produced and arranged this new album with money raised from his fans. Smith has been operating as a musical iconoclast for years, well known in New York as a top-flight songwriter and a powerful, expressive singer. Since his last record, Lights On, was released two years ago Smith has performed extensively in the US, Europe, and Asia, and his artistic wanderlust has won him thousands of fans around the world. He was recently invited as a guest vocalist with Los Lobos and has also performed with members of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. After more than a decade of non-stop performing in venues from clubs to concert halls, Smith has become an irresistible live performer with the ability to connect with any audience.
Unafraid to express his political views in his music, Jonah Smith added his voice to the growing chorus of the 99% by releasing a video shot in Zuccotti Park for “Live One” a song that recaps the 2008 financial meltdown with wry humor and a groove reminiscent of a classic Taj Mahal record. Smith’s point of view can also be heard on his Guthrie-esque folk song, “Big Box Town” which tells the story of an Ohio town that loses its identity as it is populated with chain stores.
But politics is far from the only thing on Smith’s mind. The album is filled with love songs like “Under The Gun” and “You Always Think It’s You,” a blues where he envisions his grandmother as an outlaw (“This House Ain’t No Fun”), an Americana pastoral that takes place in a small East Nevada town (“Land Of Long Reds”), and even a song about the state of popular music and his enduring love for vinyl records (“Blues On Sideways”).
It’s a rarity for a singer-songwriter to have a band of this caliber stay so consistent; the album was made in Brooklyn with his long-time musical comrades: bassist, Ben Rubin has been playing with Smith for eighteen years, David Soler adds unique sound effects and textural guitar and pedal steel work, Andy Stack lends integral harmonies and acoustic finger picking, and Gintas Janusonis, who has toured with Smith for years, makes his album debut here with assured simplicity and a deep pocket bolstering the arrangements. Guest musicians also add a strong flavor to the album. Doug Wamble (Wynton Marsalis) adds beautiful resonator guitar on several songs including a great slide solo on the Todd Snider penned “Carla” (the one song not written by Smith). Mike Bram (Jason Mraz) adds blues harp to “Live One” and Sasha Dobson (Norah Jones) sings harmony vocals on “Under The Gun.” The sound of the album was tied together by the creative mixing of Danny Molad (Lucius) who adds personality to the arrangements with tape effects, fuzz, and reverbs.
Little Known Cure is a self-assured production by an artist in the prime of his career. Says Smith, “This album speaks to who I am now as an artist: eclectic and unafraid.”