With its existence inching towards the half-century mark—46 years to be exact—Smithfield Fair is believed to be the longest running folk/singer-songwriter aggregation in the Pelican State. But even so, its 32nd album, an all-original spiritual release, is still a career first. Though six of the 14 tunes may be found on previous offerings, eight others make their grand debut. Yet, regardless whether it’s heritage or brand spanking new, every track is a fresh recording, so everything sounds like a live performance.
Even better is how the proceedings are never heavy-handed or a fire-and-brimstone smack in your face. Rather, they’re soul-felt, honest reflections of celebration, salvation, admittance, reassurance and anticipation of the eternal afterlife—all fodder for mediation.
Smithfield Fair bookends it brilliantly, opening with a vivid reprisal of “God Never Sleeps” written by vocalist/accordionist Jan Smith. It’s four in the morning and the protagonist is star-gazing out the window, absorbed with the shattering news of the day’s tragedy. But realizing God’s close by (hence, he never sleeps), she feels comfort and strength to carry on.
The penultimate track “God Bless the Weary” advocates opening one’s heart to the Almighty. It isn’t an unexpected message for fare such as this, but the final ode “I Am Weary” certainly is. It’s a surprisingly strong admission of one’s own mortality and willingness, when it’s time, to leave this earthly life behind. Indeed, the spirit moves here.