Title: Taxidermy (Brought Back To Life)
Artist: Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Release Date: 2015 Feb 10
Genre: Country / Folk / Blues
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Label: blocSonic / BandCamp

Introduction

Mr. & Mrs. Smith’s Taxidermy is filled with symbols of death and life.  Hollis Smith has poured herself into stories about life and the relationships that can mean many things to us.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith’s Taxidermy

My introduction to the work of Hollis Smith came about a year ago when blocSonic released a compilation of her work.  A the time I was immediately enthralled with the Florida natives amazing range of style and the quality of her writing.  I’ve listened to a few of her releases since then, but just haven’t found the time or space to get them into the queue for review.  (To be honest, it is quite daunting following Hollis’s releases at times, sometimes she puts out a new recording every couple of weeks to a month.)

Her latest release is Taxidermy (Brought Back To Life) uses healthy doses of symbols for death and life in the context of stories that tell bits and pieces about life, and relationships.  For example, in ‘Painted Words’ she talks about a relationship that wasn’t healthy by describing it as being killed:

And words were painted so effortlessly
You made it look so easy
A classy activity
You looked so happy
When You were killin’ me

And in Taxidermy she talks about the end of a relationship as if it was an empowering re-birth:

Let’s Bring it back to life,
What you threw away will win first prize,
lil touch here, lil tender lovin care,
Sure ain’t no Frankenstein,
It’s the best brought out in the light, It’s the best brought out in the light.

But where she comes to life is when she is on the open road, even in the middle of the night, when going to sleep she can be herself:

When I lay down at night
I don’t know where I am
I know the road’s been long
saw them headlights through the fog
[…]
When I lay down at night
I become the person I’m suppose to be
When I lay down at night
I’m just me

This release really tells a story of someone that is searching for something, looking to be what they want to be.  It’s also the story of someone who knows how they are, doesn’t question themselves too much.  It’s more like she knows who she is, but doesn’t know how to relate herself to others with feeling like being killed, or being discarded when things don’t work out for the better.

But don’t think that Hollis is only focused on a narrow range of subjects.  There’s so many more layers and dimensions in this work I could probably write a dissertation on her lyrics.  Thematic relationships are only the start of this work.

Hollis is a master of writing pieces with multiple dimensions of longing and fierceness, often withing the same stanza of a verse.  She has honed her craft of writing country and blues infused folk tunes to a level that should make most of today’s country “stars” cringe with jealousy.  There hasn’t been a practitioner of this craft to match her purity since Blind Willie Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters (oh, and I should mention Bessie Smith and Leadbelly too…)..

Conclusion

When I first heard Hollis’ work, I was blown away.  I couldn’t help but break down many of the elements that went into her work because it felt like it needed to be dissected.  This is a work on a different level.  All of those elements are still present in this work.  If anything, there seems to be more immediacy to these recordings.  On the whole Hollis has done a magnificent job again, and raised the stakes for this style of music.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith: Taxidermy (Brought Back To Life)

Free / Donation
9

Rating

9.0/10
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Posted by George De Bruin