Chris Smither performs at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek on Sunday | VailDaily.com
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Chris Smither performs two shows at the Vilar Performing Arts Center’s May Gallery in Beaver Creek on Sunday

Chris Smither studied anthropology and intended to pursue a career in it, but music eventually got the best of him.
Special to the Daily

As a young pre-teen, Chris Smither picked up his mother’s ukulele and his career path was set.

Hear songs from Smither in the intimate May Gallery at the Vilar Performing Arts Center. Shows are on Sunday, Jan. 12 at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 and available by calling 970-845-8497 or visiting http://www.vilarpac.org.

The son of a linguistics professor, Chris Smither grew up in New Orleans. His Uncle Howard taught him to play the ukulele and then his father gifted him his first guitar when he was 12. He was soon obsessed. Though he studied anthropology, he kept being drawn back to buying and playing guitars.

During the ‘60s, Smither forged lifelong friendships with many musicians, including Bonnie Raitt who went on to record his songs, “Love You Like A Man” and “I Feel the Same.” What quickly evolved from his musical experiences is his enduring, singular guitar sound – a beat-driven finger-picking, strongly influenced by the playing of Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin’ Hopkins, layered over the ever-present backbeat of his rhythmic, tapping feet, which get their own microphone each performance.

“I’d loved acoustic music – specifically the blues – ever since I first heard Lightnin’ Hopkins’ ‘Blues In My Bottle’ album. I couldn’t believe the sound Hopkins got. At first, I thought it was two guys playing guitar. My style, to a degree, came out of trying to imitate that sound I heard,” Smither said.

Smither released his first albums in the early ‘70s and continued making albums during the ‘80s and early ‘90s. But it was his 1997 album, “Small Revelations,” that climbed the Americana and Triple A radio charts and led to concert dates with B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Nanci Griffith, and the hugely successful, original Monsters of Folk’ tour with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Dave Alvin and Tom Russell. “Small Revelations” also generated several film projects for Smither. Emmylou Harris recorded his song, “Slow Surprise,” for the The Horse Whisperer soundtrack on MCA. And his recording of “Hold On” was used in the indie feature film, “Love From Ground Zero.”

In 2018, Smither released his 18th album, “Call Me Lucky,” once again teaming up with producer and multi-instrumentalist David Goodrich. Also joined by Billy Conway and Matt Lorenz, Smither recorded eight new originals along with some very special and surprising covers at the Blue Rock studios in the Texas hills in June 2017.


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