Again, using this column to shine a bit of light on an album that’s been pinched between the cracks. While there are dozens of reissues pressing down each month, it seems that for each complete knockout, there are just as many superfluous retreads of dollar bin fodder best left to their original incarnations. So Necessary Repress finds me wandering through those records that elude local capture or beg too much on the secondary market. An apt example as any would certainly be the sophomore LP from L.A. folk artist Kathy Smith. Though she’s been a collector’s gem for quite some time, I came to Smith (as I imagine many might have) through Andy Votel’s lovely compilation Folk Is Not A Four Letter Word. Her song “It’s Taking So Long” from 2 gets prime placement on the comp and acts as an easy hook into Smith’s songwriting and style.
Smith was a staple at L.A. venues Paradox and The Troubador, eventually finding her way into a friendship and eventual partnership with Penny Nichols. The two formed a duo called Greasy Mountain Butterballs, which pretty much explains why that band never took off, though they’d been hanging with members of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, so who’s to judge. The pair did a tour Vietnam before parting ways with Nichols moving on to her own solo work for Buddah and Smith finding her way solo with two albums of her own.
Like her equally scarce debut, Some Songs I’ve Saved, 2 was issued on Richie Havens’ pet label Stormy Forest, which aside from the ‘70s output of Havens himself, only issued the works of Smith, Havens associate Bob Brown, and Canadian folk singer Bruce Murdoch. It’s little wonder then that her albums suffered from a slight lack of promotion. The record breaks from her debut to push a slightly more eclectic mix of songs, though both have a bit of Havens’ stamp of mixed instrumentation and jazz touches – augmenting the album with flutes, slight funk nodes and psychedelic overtones. Her second album is Smith at her peak.
It would have seemed like she was poised for greater things with 2. She’d played to an audience of 600,000 at the Isle of Wight just the year prior and with the album’s expanded palliate it certainly had some potential. However, like other psych-folk gems from the likes of Linda Perhacs, Vashti Bunyan, and Susan Christie, it would prove to slip through the fingers of the buying public. Though unlike any of those it has yet to find a second life in reissue glory. It feels like a record with enough of a cult following to make the crossover. Plus, while its a great record no one needs to spend $100 + on a copy. Recommending this one for a repress, puttin’ the vibes out to the universe.