Monday, November 29, 2010

F.T.W. – A Tribute to Gideon Smith

It’s a testament to a man when bands come racing out of the wood-work, begging to be a part of a tribute album, and I’m sure that’s what happened when the news broke that this project was being born.   Culling bands from across the US, Canada, and Europe, F.T.W. is an imaginative reworking of 17 classic tracks from the underground rock ‘n’ roll outlaw, Gideon Smith and the Dixie Damned.

For those who don’t know the name, Gideon Smith is a neo-legend of swaggering, tomb-bound, voodoo rock.  Described as a rock star, a philosopher, a poet, a sage, and a writer, Gideon Smith is known to have some of the heaviest mojo outside of the Delta.  And let me tell you, each of these bands attacks their assignment with ferocity and reverence.  Cover albums can be played in one of two ways, either straight or re-imagined.  I’m a big fan of the second style, and listening to these gothic southern rockers remade as punk, rock, southern rock, Doom, Black Metal, Death, Country, Techno Pop, and Stoner Rock odes is simply a blast.

Way too many songs to point out all the highlights, but it starts right off the bat with HK Family’s crunchy “Whiskey Devil” with one helluva fine mid-song reggae breakdown before jumping in the hearse for Barnburner’s death dirge of “Wishing Well.”   Honky Tonk Hustlas bust out a Gothic Country rampage to “Breaking Hearts and Horses,” that just kicks serious denim and leather ass, while Red All Over surprise with a bouncy techno bop remaking of “Draggin’ the River,” that is just too good to believe.

But the greatest testament to the mad talents of this gruff genius is how his music translates so seamlessly to which ever style the bands want to play.  Through it all, the real songcraft shines through, and that’s the real story here, just how strong a songwriter Mr. Smith is.  Perhaps this is never as plain as on Dear Druid’s version of “Lay Me Down in Ecstasy.”  With it’s hushed vocal, disembodied harmonies, and shockingly evocative melody, this may just be one of the most haunting songs I’ve heard all year.  So beautiful, the first time I heard it it actually took my breath away.

I know Gideon enough to know how humbled he must’ve been by this outpouring of love for his music.  Forget those descriptors I used to describe him in the second paragraph, at his essence Gideon is an artist of vision and essence, but he’s also a man of the earth, a man of humility and honor.   I’m sure he looked at this project as an unnecessary praise for his work, but I’m hearing it as a necessary addition to his legend.

Good on ya, Gideon.


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