There’s a good chance if you’re reading this blog that you’re familiar with Robert Pollard and his work solo and fronting Guided By Voices. Rightly so, too; Pollard is a one in a couple million talent. One of the things that will always be associated with GbV is their lo-fi approach. Mention lo-fi and the mid-1990′s, and it’s all about Guided By Voices.
The thing about GbV is that they weren’t lo-fi by choice; that’s the only avenue of recording available to them early on. One of the things that made them so memorable was that through the hissy, flat 4-track production you heard a group desperately trying to unleash their inner arena-rocker. What sucked was that in their wake, a bunch of folks happened along also toting their own four-track recordings; problem was, they were slumming it; one band I know of took their own pristine digital recordings, played them through speakers and recorded them through a single open mic, and released the latter, messier sounding tape.
And so but there were some folks who were doing lo-fi in much the same spirit as GbV–the lo-fi wasn’t and end unto itself, but rather a necessity, and buried beneath the muddy production lurked songs that ached to be full-on multitracked masterpieces. One totally obscure and unknown artist came at it from exactly the same method and background as Robert Pollard; she’d been recording and making music in her living room long before there was a lo-fi movement, making cassette tapes for friends of her songs. Her name is Linda Smith, and I’m betting you’ve never heard of her.
I stumbled across her thanks to a mailing list I was subscribed to at the end of the 1990′s. We’d do a mix-tape trade between members of the list, and the person who made me a tape put four Linda Smith songs on it. I’ll admit that they weren’t the four songs that bowled me over the fastest on that tape, but they were the four that stuck with me the longest. Unfortunately, finding further information on Linda Smith was difficult at best; seems there are at least 2-3 Linda Smiths out there making music…but only one doing it like *this* Linda Smith. I finally found a copy of collected songs on CD called “Preference” back in the days when the late, great Quaker Goes Deaf was open on North St. in Chicago, and on hearing Ms. Smith in her glory on all 19 songs on that CD, I’d definitely say the Pollard comparison sticks…except when it comes to being prolific.
So, anyway, in the interest of bringing a deserving artist to some folks who might dig her stuff, here are those same four Linda Smith songs that put their hooks deep in me back in 1999:
“The Space Between The Buildings”
Smith put out a pretty nifty disc two years ago called “Emily’s House” that I heartily recommend; that one you can find at iTunes or on Emusic, so if you dig this stuff, throw a deserving artist a few bucks, willya? She’s also working a new band called The Window Shoppers (great name, that), but it’s very much a departure from her solo material; you can easily find them on Myspace and give it a whirl.