Noisy Neighbors

Chris Smither, ‘Still on the Levee’

Chris Smither is at an age where his legacy looms larger than ever. It’s almost startling to realize his new album comes with the distinction of being a 50-year retrospective. Anyone who has seen him perform live recently knows that Smither wears his 69 years as a badge of hard-won honor. He practically makes more sense as an elder statesman of folk-blues.

Recorded last year in his native New Orleans, the new double-disc “Still on the Levee” surveys Smither’s discography, but not as a traditional best-of compilation. With a supporting cast of like-minded musicians, Smither reinterprets 24 of his songs going back to his 1970 debut, “I’m a Stranger Too!” He was a young pup then, living hard and fast and earning the right to sing the blues.

“Devil Got Your Man,” the first song Smither ever wrote, introduces the collection with a warm, lived-in resonance. Smither, who moved from Arlington to Amherst a few years ago, relays these new versions with a resilience and wisdom that can come only from experience. (This album, by the way, precedes a forthcoming tribute to Smither, “Link of Chain,” featuring covers by Bonnie Raitt and Josh Ritter, among others, scheduled for September. Smither also recently released “Chris Smither Lyrics 1966-2012,” available at


With stomp and swagger, his update on “Love You Like a Man” is worlds removed from the slow-burning version Raitt made famous (as “Love Me Like a Man”). New Orleans piano man Allen Toussaint tickles the keys on “Train Home” and a particularly swinging rendition of “No Love Today.” Rusty Belle, a rootsy trio out of Western Massachusetts, back him on a handful of songs, including a delicate two different versions of “Leave the Light On.”

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With longtime producer David “Goody” Goodrich at the helm, “Still on the Levee” frames Smither as what he always has been: a timeless singer and songwriter no matter his age. (Out now)


ESSENTIAL “No Love Today”

Chris Smither performs at Payomet Performing Arts Center in North Truro on Aug. 12.