CD Review: Joel Smoker



The Human Condition


In The Human Condition, Joel Smoker’s fifth studio record, he has rounded up the perfect backing band. Each member knows their place; when they’re needed in the spotlight and when it’s time to step back and add subtle characteristics to the songs overall vibe. This is often apparent with Ian Simpson (guitar, dobro, banjo and baritone guitar), and Dave Clarke (fiddle, mandolin and harmonica), as they constantly switch between their weapons of choice and ensure no dull moment.

The reason Smoker’s backing band needs so much credit is because at times it seems that with only vocals and guitar, these songs would fall short. Not because they’re poorly written, rather the meaning contained within the lyrics struggles to break through somewhat wavy and unconvincing vocals. The end result sees Smoker struggling to unleash any real passion.

With laid-back, country subject matter and waltz-worthy music, the schizophrenic clown imagery on the cover doesn’t encapsulate the country-sounds on the plastic disc inside. This isn’t a book, and the imagery surrounding a record’s cover art tends to be the scaffolding on which listeners build their opinions from. People can’t but help let imagery influence their feelings towards a song, and confusingly starring at The Human Condition’s cover when giving the CD its first spin can leave a person unsure about Smoker’s endgame.

Besides the aesthetical hiccup and Smokers somewhat unconvincing performance, The Human Condition presents an intriguing new take on country. With any luck, Smoker will add more fuel to the flame on his next release and truly capture the vibe he is going for.

Daniel Cribb