Now Playing: Charlie Roth’s ‘I’m The Smile’

Image: Charlie Roth

Charlie Roth is preparing for the release of his new studio platter on June 7th.  Titled I’m The Smile, this will be his eighth album.  But first, for those not yet familiar with Charlie Roth, a bit of background on the performer.

Charlie Roth

Image: Charlie Roth

No relation to David Lee or the actor of the same name, Minnesota-born Charlie Roth is a singer-songwriter and musician.  According to his website he is also a “[g]uitarist, one-man band, Bard of the Great Plains, [and] Emissary of The Prairie.”  He’s been making his living by playing music for more than three decades now.

Roth’s rockin’ resume includes seven previous platters and three tours of the UK.  He is also known for his work in his own band The Healers, the Irish folk band Ring of Kerry, Tommy Vee and Kurt “Lightning” Rodman, among others.  His musical influences are many.

They include Lennon and McCartney, Amazing Rhythm Aces, Greg Brown, Ray Charles, Liam Clancy, Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, John Lee Hooker, Waylon Jennings, Memphis Jug Band, Gram Parsons, John Prine, Taj Mahal,Tom Waits, Hank Williams, Jesse Winchester, Townes Van Zant,  and his parents “who always had a song in their heads and sang in the church choir and made all 6 of [us] join.”

His signature sound is a simple but effective mix of multiple music genres including Americana, blues, Celtic, folk, and even a bit of rock ‘n’ roll.

I’m The Smile

This album examines such subjects as life, love, death, and choices.  On this disc Roth (acoustic guitar, rack harmonica, and vocals)  is backed by several other artists including co-producer John Inmon (dobro, acoustic, electric, slide, and baritone guitar), Javier Chaparro (violin), Mike Morgan (bass), and Pat Manske (drums and percussion.

Track by track

This 12-track album opens on the titular “I’m The Smile” which features Manske on the organ.  Roth explains the meaning behind his sincere song:

“I smile a lot when I perform.  It is natural because I am most happy when I get to sing and play my guitar.  I’m the smile.”

“Good Times” follows.  This is Roth’s cover of a song written by Ray Bonneville who appears here on guitar.

“Serenity” is a song about a little girl named “Serenity” and her father’s struggles with drink.  In a larger sense, it is about some of the tough decisions we all face in life.  Additionally, it’s an early fan fave.

Roth then presents his version of Jonathan Byrd’s “Clean.”  It includes horn arrangements by Inmon, Beth Galiger on saxophone, and Chris Gage and Inmon on the organ.

“Gloves” is a working man’s tale written by George Ensle and Chuck Hawthorne.  It features Lloyd Maines on dobro.  “Say Never” picks things up a bit.  Another original, it stands as another example of what Roth can do as a songwriter.

Written shortly after his mother passed away, “Where You’ll Be” is an intimate no doubt cathartic ode to her.  Mark Stuart appears on guitar, Greg Byers plays cellos and Michael Shynes adds harmony vocals.

Roth’s take on Steve Doerr’s “Pretty Little Lights Of Town”  is one of the best tracks here.  It would have been perfect for the soundtrack of the movie The Identical.  It is highlight by Bill Kirchen and Redd Volkaert on fender telecasters.

Roth switches to electric guitar in order to present his interpretation of Steve Fisher’s pretty “The Possibilities of You.”  Gage appears on accordion.  “My Chair” is another original composition that focuses on being comfy and content at home with the person you love.  Inmon handles string arrangements.

Roth’s adaptation of Effron White’s “Yankee Dime” is one of the best cuts here.  (In some circles, “Yankee dime” means a kiss.)  “I’m The Smile (Reprise)”  is a reprise of the album opener with added string arrangements from Inmon and Ted Manderfeld on piano.  It puts a perfect parenthetical framework on the disc.

Overall, the audio offering is an excellent example of Roth’s work.  Indeed, when he performs live he enjoys including creative covers in with his original, honest offerings.  So check out Charlie Roth’s I’m The Smile and enjoy a moment of “Serenity.”