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John Smith has built a reputation as one of the UK’s finest guitarists and songwriters. Steeped in the lineage of British folk and American guitar music, taking his cue from Richard Thompson, John Martyn and Ry Cooder, John has evolved a transatlantic blend of guitar techniques. Sometimes using a slide, sometimes with guitar on his lap, sometimes detuning mid-song or pulling subtle expressions out of an array of effect pedals, Smith’s obsession with the instrument has made a master of him. Whether by way of album or concert, he leads the listener, enthralled in his presence, on a viscerally emotional journey.
His new record The Living Kind is the real masterpiece in American atmospherics – a true musician’s record, produced by Joe Henry, the man responsible for some of the subtlest Americana of recent times. The Living Kind is an album from someone lucky enough to have the gift of music to help put life’s greatest challenges into some kind of perspective. Smith says “The Living Kind is about responsibility and being very keenly aware of your place within a family dynamic,” he explains. “When I started writing these songs, I knew immediately what was happening; in the space of three years, I had essentially become a different person and had a lot more to deal with. I wrote the songs just as we were beginning to rebuild our lives. They are about changing for the better in the face of loss. Celebrating the good things and facing up to the bad. Staying positive, trying to keep an eye on the centre, holding on to those we love and working towards a better future.”