Artist: Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Release Date: February 2014
Genre: Acoustic Folk / Country / Blues
License: CC BY-NC-SA
blocSonic has re-started producing a series of releases designed to expose listeners to artists they feel have been overlooked. And the first one of these releases I have encountered is introducing Mr. & Mrs. Smith to me.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith is actually the incredibly talented Hollis Smith. Alone with her guitar she has written and recorded music for years. She started releasing her music as far back as 2009. She has over 40 releases on her Bandcamp page, and has been featured on two previous netBlocs from blocSonic.
There are several characteristics I have come to expect in a Mr. and Mrs. Smith recording:
- Low production: Hollis appears to be most at-ease recording in a simple and direct manner: just her voice and guitar. These recordings sound as if they are live, direct to two-track, single take recordings.
- Occasional extra production, but only to do things like add harmony vocals. Nothing big in this production, but when the song calls for it, a few extra vocals will be added.
- Brevity. The longest song on Intro is just under three minutes long.
- Directness: Hollis writes lyrics that are creative, and yet have an economy of scale. In fact, she can tell the story of a bored housewife playing strip poker in a bar in under three minutes.
- Incredible detail in her vocals. While all of her songs are identifiably hers, each performance is specific to the song. The character of ‘Potluck Thursdays’ is nowhere near the same person as the singer of ‘Death has taken it’s toll on me’.
If just the recording style sounds very nuanced and detailed, Hollis’s range of musical styles is as impressive. She manages to blend country, folk, honky-tonk, blues, torch songs, and even some touches of noir in her music. The range of her vocal styles is every bit as impressive from old country crooners, to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.
If there is something about her style that is intriguing is the cross-section of musical influences that come through in her music. It’s hard to identify every artist that she’s listened to over the years, but it’s obvious that everyone she has listened to has left an impression. Her adoption of aspects of their styles is not simply impersonating, she has integrated aspects of their styles to come up with her own unique style.
Introducing Mr. & Mrs. Smith: Conclusion
I have to thank blocSonic for making this release available. It is excellent to have a netlabel that cares enough about the artists to build a release around material and artists that aren’t part of their “stable” of artists.
As for Hollis Smith, she is an incredibly strong musician, vocalist, writer, and artist. She is honestly one of the best female artists I’ve heard in the past five years. And that’s not just on Netlabels, but of all the female vocalists I’ve listened to. Now excuse me, I have to go and buy more Mr. and Mrs. Smith releases to add to my collection.