I don't often pay lip service to folk here - it's a loaded moniker nowadays anyway, but also it isn't a genre I visit that often. And I'm not saying that Lehmann B Smith is a folk troubadour, at all. But there are many folk and country flourishes on his latest Thank God For My Body (out through Special Award) and the wry introspective lyricism on display here lends itself to that description. the difference here is that these songs manage to haunt and lift simultaneously, like only the best can do. Think Bill Callahan, or Neil Young. Thank God... is a rumination on how the body works in all its form - as a physical bag of muscle, flesh and bone, allowing to do us so much and restricting us to doing so little; the mental anguish and acuity that emanates from each mortal vessel; the time that hovers menacingly over every waking itch and sleeping twitch; and the metaphysical expanse outside of our bodies, whether we belong in those bodies of water, of weather, of the cosmos. The bluesy melancholy of 'Blue Lake, S.A.' lingers just as it rises, euphoric; the honky-tonk ramble of 'Time' belies a Young-esque instrumental expulsion, both ebullient and broken, that bleeds out like a White Album meltdown; a reverent opening is eschewed to a more plaintive number in 'Inside/Outside'. Smith creates a warm album that is both simplistic and intricate in instrumentation and design; inquisitive without being overtly cerebral; moving and implacable. These juxtapositions also stand not to alienate but to align the listener with Smith's inquisitions - we too wonder about our own organic machinations, our spiritual yearnings, our emotional reach and longings. An existential exploration it may be, but Thank God For My Body is also a wondrous, striking body of work, irrespective of whether Smith finds the answers he's searching for. Maybe he never will; maybe that isn't the point. And like this Yarra Brown record, the world continues to turn, begins and comes to an end, and we fall in love and enjoy the ride while our bodies let us.
Buy Thank God For My Body here. Stunning.