O U T S I D E L E F T   stay i n d e p e n d e n t

Strange Bird A Warblin'

Micha Blue Smaldone steps off a Wellsian time travel carriage with a Dobro and song in his heart

get the weekly Outsideleft newsletter
by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: January, 2006
a lovechild of Robbie Basho's unabashed songbird arias and the singing frog from the Warner Brothers cartons
by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: January, 2006
a lovechild of Robbie Basho's unabashed songbird arias and the singing frog from the Warner Brothers cartons

Micha Blue Smaldone
Hither and Thither
(North West Indie)

Out of the wild North of Kennebunkport, Maine, playground of the Bush dynasty, emerges Micah Blue Smaldone, whose out-of-time warble and daydream guitar rattle offer a spiritual balm to the reputation that lazy seaside town has in the public conciousness. One of the less precious and pretentious reluctant members of the New American Weirdness, his odd voice (a lovechild of Robbie Basho's unabashed songbird arias and the singing frog from the Warner Brothers cartons) is at once off-putting and completely engaging, fluttering like a drunken butterfly minstrel over the heavy twang and blunk of his cosmic-troubadour Dobro work. He uses the Dobro as much as a percussive instrument as melodic one, forgoing the usual slide techniques applied to it in favor of taking advantage of the cutting, banjo-like force of its strings when fingerpicked.

His latest album Hither and Thither, from its watercolor digipack, to its etching filled booklet to the ghostly charm of his music, is a delight that takes you out of phase with the current moment. "Swamp of the Swan" motifs and echoes (Smaldone uses the echo of the Dobro as an accompaniment, much like My Morning Jacket uses reverb) in your conciousness like it is sprouting there, weed-like and thick with thistles and barbs. The charm in his vocals and mastery of the minstrel form displayed old-timey tracks like "More Than I Can Bear" and his take on Jelly Roll Morton's "New Orleans Bump" (the tune on the album Smaldone didn't write) are impressive and engaging.

The real meat on this weird bird is to be found in his cyclic finger picked tunes like "A Winter's Truce," where his wavering vocals ring like church bells through his guitar ramble of thickets, bringing to mind the obligatory Fahey comparisons that crop anytime this music is discussed, especially on "Summerbelle, Winterbelle" which could be a bonus track off Fahey's "America" were it not for the vocals. Smaldone is not trying to dazzle you with his fretwork though. Rather, he gets at the beating heart of ragtime, cutting away the saccharine corniness to draw you in with its, and his, guileless charm.

see more stories from outsideleft's Music archive »»

Alex V. Cook
Music Editor

Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com

THIS IS HAPPENING...
Cassis B Staudt Week Coming to Outsideleft...

MORE STORIES TO READ...


thumb through the ancient archives:

search for something you might like...


sign up for the outsideleft weekly. a selection of new and archived stories every week. Or less.

View previous campaigns.

Chuck Prophet Americana Ambassador
Onetime (still sometime) Green On Red guitarist Chuck Prophet on the campaign trail. Two nights in NW London.
Four Tet: OK, OK, I'll Dance Already
Back in 2005 Kieran "Four Tet" Hebden reclaimed techno for people that liked real music, but on his latest, he reshapes it for those that still like dance music.
Queens of the Underground - The Rolling Stones
joe ambrose/marsha hunt rolling stones appreciation society.
An Interview with a Devil
It's True! Devils Have All The Best Tunes...
Dr. John Cooper Clarke Gets Us Back On Drugs
Dr John Cooper Clarke's poetry is our new drug of choice
There's Something Funky in the State of Finland
SOME OTHER THINGS