Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Waxed - Record Review from Issue #39 May-June 2002

Darden Smith

Sunflower (Dualtone)

As Darden Smith’s penchant for pop melodicism carries him ever further beyond the corral of rootsy Texas tradition, his first album of fresh material in six years can be heard as both a creative renewal and a return to form. Sunflower is easily Smith’s most satisfying since 1993′s Little Victories, though the darker themes of the material and the weathered vulnerability of his vocals suggest he has traveled some bumpy terrain over the years since. He still knows how to craft a catchy chorus, an indelible hook, but the best of his songs hit a deeper, truer place than previously.

On the album-opening “Perfect Moment”, Smith’s vocal barely rises above a whisper, with the harmony of Kim Richey reinforcing the sense of heart-to-heart intimacy, as the arrangement pivots around the stately tone of Roscoe Beck’s acoustic bass in an organic unity of sound and sense. It’s an ambitious song that doesn’t seem to be trying too hard, every element in perfect balance with the others; Smith and co-producer Stewart Lerman appear to be letting the music discover where it wants to go, what it wants to say.

The best of the rest of the material strikes a similar balance between thematic richness and musical understatement. From the Beatlesque lilt of “Satellite” to the bittersweet spareness of “Closer To You” — which somehow manages to evoke both the bluesy undercurrent of Boz Scaggs and the wispy romanticism of Chet Baker — to the edgy insistence of “Till It Bled”, Smith seems to have achieved a musical maturity beyond the facile cocksureness of some of his earlier work.

While “New Gospel” (an idea in search of a song) and the annoyingly repetitive “Stronger” (a self-help mantra in the guise of a song) fall on the wrong side of the thin line between catchy and glib, Sunflower seems to indicate that the once-precocious Smith is in fact a late bloomer, an artist beyond category who is just coming into his own.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

Discuss

Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #39 May-June 2002

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »


From the Blogs

  • Rod Kennedy (1930-2014) and the Kerrville Folk Festival - Interview & Remembrance
    Rod Kennedy’s legacy is incalculable for those who truly love music, he departed this earthly plane on Monday 14th April 2014. R.I.P. The following “warts and all” late May 1986 interview with Mr. Kennedy, the founder of the Kerrville Folk Festival, was the lead feature in the debut issue of the Kerrville Kronikle fanzine sometime around 1988. No serendipity […]
  • MerleFest - Wilkesboro, North Carolina - April 24-27 2014
    While there are quite a few notable festivals that begin earlier than late April, many of us kick off the festival season by trekking to not your normal community college, the Wilkes Community College in the rolling hills of north central North Carolina where MerleFest has been held every year since 1988. Named in honor of Merle Watson who lived nearby, 2014 […]
  • Americana Boogie new releases for the week of April 15th... Rodney Crowell, Bobby Bare Jr, Moot Davis, Secret Sisters, Ray Bonneville and more
    BOBBY BARE JR. Undefeated (Bloodshot) Bobby Bare, Jr. could've phoned in a career. He could've exploited the fact that he s the son of Country Music Hall of Famer Bobby Bare, instead, he blazed a path of unique songwriting… […]
  • Five Questions: Kris Orlowski
    With his new album, Believer, Seattle's Kris Orlowski steps forward in two new directions. First, it's a full-length record (after three EPs) and, second, he's a band (not just a singer/songwriter). Listening to the depth and breadth of Believer, both points ring out loud and clear -- it's a solid collection of songs rendered in big sonic […]
  • Catie Curtis - Flying Dream (Album Review)
    Curtis’ Flying Dream is carpeted wall-to-wall by songs that explore the many shades of ‘love.’ This year Maine bred Catie Curtis celebrates quarter-of-a-century as a recording artist. Commencing with the self-released, cassette-only album Dandelion (1989), Curtis’… […]
  • Lydia Loveless - Somewhere Else (Album Review)
    I’ve heard a lot of really unique descriptions of Lydia Loveless's new album, "Somewhere Else".  It’s always X + Y that supposedly equals a new sound.  None of them seem to capture the essence of the record for me.  On Loveless’s Facebook page, her sound is described as “Loretta Lynn and Patti Smith slamming shots at a Midwestern dive bar whil […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!


Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter