The Music Room, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool.
Acclaimed guitarist and singer-songwriter John Smith has announced the release of his new album Headlong, due out June 30th, through BARP Records. Produced by Sam Lakeman, mixed by Ruadhri Cushnan (Mumford & Sons, Flo Morrissey, The Maccabees) and featuring Cara Dillon on BVs, Headlong - dedicated to the memory of John Renbourn - is the follow up to Great Lakes, John’s widely-applauded and Radio 2-supported release of 2013. Smith is trailing the announcement with the first new track to emerge from Headlong, ’Far Too Good’.
Speaking about ‘Far Too Good’ - driven by his trademark gravel-in-honey vocals - John says; “This is one of my favourites from the new batch, I’ve opened all my live shows with this lately. It’s one of those songs that wrote itself, a rare occurrence - I’d just got off the phone with a friend who was having a hard time, so this one is for him”.
Not by chance is it that John’s fifth album comes bearing a title implying impulsive, breakneck motion - written as it was, across various touring stints playing guitar for the likes of Lianne La Havas and Lisa Hannigan (who fittingly lends a co-write to Headlong, on ‘Coming Home’) across the U.S. Having wound up his own successful 2 year stint touring Great Lakes round the UK & Europe (taking in sold-out shows at Union Chapel and The Purcell Rooms), in early 2016 John was finally afforded a chance to come off the road and settle in one place for a while. An opportunity which Smith soon elected to decline; “I felt like I had time on my hands, and I thought rather than go home and try to write where it just didn’t feel natural, I wanted to keep on touring. It felt right”.
Subsequently recorded in Sam Lakeman’s Somerset studios in just over a week, Headlong is marked by the loss of Smith’s close friend, Pentangle’s John Renbourn, who passed away whilst Smith was out on tour. Says John; “He was so much more to me than someone I’d played with, and who had encouraged me. He was a friend as well, so I wanted to reference him on this album- that’s why I’ve dedicated it to his memory”. Renbourn’s presence is particularly palpable in Smith’s equally sparing and striking electric guitar work- informed by a love for JJ Cale and Clapton - which weaves through Headlong, marking a break of sorts from the lush string orchestration that characterised Great Lakes.
Whilst John Smith has stood still just long enough to commit this new album to record, there’s yet little danger of moss gathering. With a UK & European tour beginning in October, Smith has also been tapped to play guitar on the forthcoming album from Joan Baez (with an appearance on the forthcoming Martin Simpson album also in the works), alongside his Great Lakes’ collaborator, Joe Henry.