11 June 2018 (released)
22 June 2018
Although addiction is an awful state, worth avoiding at all costs, there can be a “benefit” for the artistically inclined. Being at the mercy of a substance is to be vulnerable and great art tends to come from vulnerable places. Music that is based on a flawless facade is not nearly as lasting and affecting as music that acknowledges shortcomings and shows the artist blow wide open.
Athens, Georgia songwriter Richie Williams wrote the bulk of his new record with his brother Dave who suffered from a traumatic overdose last year causing significant neural damage. In honour of his brother's struggle and to raise awareness for the opioid crisis, Williams finished the record with the help of bassist Kevin Sims and drummer James Owen. Late in the game, Williams discovered the golden-voiced Rachel Adams whose warm and sultry voice tied together the varied styles of the album, making the EP into a cohesive piece rather than a collection of various musings. The songs have a southern charm which takes significant influence from the textural elements of 60s and 70s British psychedelic rock. Williams has also received guidance from fellow child of Athens, Michael Stipe who has offered Williams ideas throughout his career.
The Smart Heart EP has a prevailing sense of musical patience that comes from artistic maturity. Nobody is overly anxious to fill space, they allow the music breathing room. Nowhere is that more apparent than on the opener and title track. The crystal clear kick drum and tambourine handle all of the percussive duties on this exposed number. Williams begins a thought with Adams echoing his sentiments and finishing the idea. It's nearly halfway into the song before Sims chimes in with a sparse, slinky bass line. He's in and out in a flash, leaving their voices to hold up the music on their own once again. Adams' voice has no trouble in carrying the bulk of the melodic spectrum.
The subsequent 'Blown Away' is a direct descendent of the musical underpinnings of Dark Side of the Moon. The rippling tremolo guitar, the trickle of watery organ, the drums that saunter with deliberate fills that are tied in lock-step with the vocals. Rock aficionados will also recognize the dreamy, transcendent vibe from Tom Petty's highly underrated blues opus, 2010's Mojo. Adams takes this one on her own and her voice reaches back into the past melding with Williams' creamy guitars.
The latter three of the five carries on this sauntering motif incorporating various exotic moods to expand on the unhurried southern pace. Smart Heart is a warm, inviting album and a loving tribute to someone who knows the true meaning of vulnerability.