“Outside of Tupelo” by Steven L. Smith

Steven L. Smith
Outside of Tupelo
Vinyl Record Company/www.slsmith.info
4 stars (out of 5)

By Donald Teplyske

Looking for contemporary country sounds that owe more to Kris Kristofferson than Jon Bon Jovi? One could do worse than spend a half hour with Outside of Tupelo.

Recorded in Nashville, Adirondack native Steven L. Smith’s sixth album of original music is as fine a slice of appealing, lyric-based country music as one can hope to encounter in times when country music is less about the songs than the party they accompany.

A skilled luthier and wordsmith, Smith approaches music with matter-of-fact honesty. Lacking inhibition, Smith exposes his fictional characters to self-examination and recrimination in a manner that is mature and hope-inspiring. Providing credit for turning around a life, the barroom Charlie of “I’ve Got You” declares, “When I’m with you I feel like a good man.”

Lightness exists elsewhere, as when love is declared for a “Woman on a Pole.” Waking up in a hotel room after a night of drinking, salvation-of-sorts is pursued in “I Stole the Bible.” The title track generates a video of the mind, with bluesy fiddle accents revealing the shadowed lanes and even more shadowed memories traveled by the protagonist while seeking a romance from the past.

Smith’s voice has depth of authenticity, bringing to mind Canadian Gary Fjellgaard and Mickey Newbury.

Fiddle from bluegrass veteran Glen Duncan is given prominence throughout the album, lending the disc additional character.

Almost every community houses an unheralded singer or songwriter. Steven L. Smith appears to be Brant Lake, N.Y.’s and he takes the responsibility seriously; nothing fancy, Outside of Tupelo is evidence that sometimes straight-forward approaches and attitudes will prevail.

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