There -- produced by Pat Fleming & Michael Smith; 2000, Bird Avenue
(Article from Performing Songwriter, December 2001)
Chicago-based folk-rocker Michael Smith takes his time with a song. The first track on his album There, "Alexandria," sprawls across five minutes, carried along by a softly hammering mix of acoustic guitar, drums and synthesizers, and a sing-along chorus like something from a chain gang. The lyrics survey the streets of a dreamlike (possibly ancient) city and give way only to a blistering electric guitar solo. It take the full five minutes for the forlorn, faintly exotic groove to work itself completely out, and then Smith launches into the title track: a spare, lilting, gradually darkening song of insistence which casts a spell for six full minutes.
Smith is well-known in the folk community, having penned the oft-covered song "The Dutchman," having appeared in a Steppenwolf production of The Grapes Of Wrath (for which he wrote the music) and having taken part in a popular Weavers tribute act. But far from resting on his laurels, Smith continues to expand the concept of the folk song, layering image upon image and sound upon sound, creating an environment as vivid as those created by Richard Thompson or Leonard Cohen (both stylistic touchpoints for the artist). There's a "there" to There.