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Map or Direction
John Smith Map or Direction
Released 28 May 2010

Jason Boshoff
John Smith
Label IHT Records
Length 43:37
Genre Folk
Website www.johnsmithjohnsmith.com

You would be forgiven for thinking that singer/songwriters have gone a bit soft lately. Artists like Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson and John Mayer have firmly aligned themselves with the teenage girl demographic, producing likeable albums based on love and loss but without any real edge to them. Sugar coated sells albums, but if you prefer your music raw then you could do a lot worse than checking out Map or Direction, the latest album from Devon born John Smith.

Recorded in America at a number of weird and wonderful locations, including a forest, a railway station and a hotel bathroom, this is as raw as it gets. The background noises picked up from the various locales heighten the intimate feeling of this album, most notably with the hissing forest in 'Invisible Boy' and the clamour of the railway station in 'The Fear, The Horror'.

That’s not to say its all smoke and mirrors, the songs themselves have substance. 'Axe Mountain' showcases his talent as a folk storyteller; we are invited to sit down as he reveals the tale of Lester Joseph Cale, a mass murderer brought to divine justice by a woman widowed by his hand. His growling voice, reminiscent of Mark Lanegan, perfectly captures the anger and terror of the tale as it unfolds, his percussive guitar style mirroring the urgency and adrenalin of the myth. On the flip side of this, songs like 'Hands' and 'A Long Way for A Woman' show a gentler side, one that reigns in the vocals and guitar for a more traditional folk sound.

Map or Direction proves that John Smith is a talented artist; someone clever enough to spread his abilities over a whole album rather than forcing them all into one or two radio friendly songs. Though he may never rival the likes of Mraz or Mayer for album sales, with songs of this quality he can guarantee himself a dedicated following of devoted fans.

- Brian Kinsella