Thursday, September 1, 2022

Darden Smith - The Bowl of Blue Sky (Official Video)



Revered Austin, TX singer-songwriter Darden Smith has announced a spoken word album Western Skies - The Essays, the latest edition to the Western Skies world which Smith has created with his recent album and book of photography, lyrics, and essays. The new accompanying album of readings set to an original score continues the immersive journey through a world both real and imagined, inspired by the landscape, small towns and mythology of West Texas. Along with the announcement, Smith has shared the track from the album, “Bowl of Blue Sky.”

A series of videos built around the audio essays will be released every two weeks beginning September 30. Filmed by Smith in West Texas over a two-week period in 2021, this wildly creative collection of 15 short films brings an expansive visual context to the words and music of this multi-media work.

Released earlier this year, the Western Skies album and visually striking companion book earned acclaim from No Depression, American Songwriter, Austin American-Statesman, The Bluegrass Situation, Austin Monthly, Texas Highways, Americana UK, and many more. Texas Music noted, “The pleasures in this album are immense, as if Smith is releasing demons long held in his craw: the lack of mainstream acceptance, the trivialization of his art, the meaning of life as an artist. Heady stuff indeed, but stuff of transcendence and emotional resiliency that bears repeated listening.” The Austin Chronicle agrees and has Western Skies on rotation in their "What We're Listening to Right Now" column, saying, “Smith belongs amongst the state’s finest audio documentarians.”

Listen To “Bowl of Blue Sky” via Youtube HERE


Stream Western Skies HERE, Purchase the companion book HERE

“Bringing these essays together with the score served to push the horizon of Western Skies a little further out,” states Smith of the album. “It’s an effort to try and get to the emotion, emptiness, the longing and harsh beauty that I’ve witnessed for years, but really locked in on while traveling through West Texas in 2020/2021. It’s not only the visible world, but what was in my mind. My imagination. For me, this album, along with the videos for the project, capture a mystery that I’ve never been quite able to put into a song.”

“The horizon line has always been this grounding thing for me,” Smith explains. “There’s something reassuring about the desert, about all that open, empty space. It’s a place to put your brain.” 

Like his photographs, Smith’s writing is steeped in isolation, though rarely lonely; timeless, yet acutely aware of the hours and minutes whizzing by like mileposts on the highway. The songs on Western Skies are spare and deliberate, often marked by a distinct sense of motion and transience, and the performances are similarly raw and intimate, reflecting the desolate beauty of the region that so captured Smith’s imagination as he crisscrossed it time and again.

“I wasn’t interested in making just another album,” says Smith. “I was interested in pushing myself to places I’ve never been before. I was interested in getting way out past my comfort zone.” 

That’s no easy feat given just how much acreage Smith’s comfort zone encompasses. Over the course of his remarkable three-and-a-half decade career, the Austin-based artist has released 15 critically lauded studio albums, landed singles on both the country and pop charts (including the Top 10 hit “Loving Arms”), penned a symphony, scored works for theater and dance, published a widely celebrated book on creativity, exhibited works of visual art, and co-founded the non-profit SongwritingWith:Soldiers program, which pairs veterans with musicians in order to tap into the transformational possibilities of collaborative songwriting. (During the pandemic, he also launched Frontline Songs, which connected musicians and healthcare workers with similarly therapeutic results.) The Daily News hailed Smith as “one of the most respected American musicians working today,” while the Austin Chronicle dubbed him a “master song craftsman,” and AllMusic called him “a singer-songwriter blessed with an uncommon degree of intelligence, depth, and compassion.”  

Despite the steady stream of acclaim, though, Smith wasn’t quite sure he needed to make another album after 2017’s Everything. “I thought that that might be my last record,” he confesses. “I felt like 15 albums was maybe enough and that would be that. But then I started going on these drives.” 

It was those drives—a series of solo odysseys from Austin to southern Arizona and back—that would spark the entire Western Skies project. Born out of necessity, the trips began in early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic made air travel a risky proposition and Smith needed to get himself across nearly 1,000 miles of flatlands and desert for writing projects with veterans. Smith found he was able to make the journey in two days with an overnight stop in Marfa, but his fascination with the landscape soon led him to lengthen his return trips to three, sometimes four days at a time. He discovered an old Polaroid camera in his garage and began documenting the drives with photographs, capturing eerily deserted scenes from an already lonely stretch of the country made even lonelier by lockdowns and quarantine. Soon he was writing behind the wheel, dictating spoken word pieces as he cruised the open, empty highways and watched America unfold around him. Read more about the project at Darden Smith’s website:

Along with an upcoming appearance on Mountain Stage, Smith is doing a series of intimate acoustic shows through the rest of the year at his studio in Austin. See full list of shows below, and details HERE

Western Skies – The Essays Tracklist:
1. Cinema Sky
2. A Place of No Markings
3. Bluestem
4. The Ocean Under the Desert
5. The Signs of Others
6. Necklace
7. Rain
8. The Comet and The Train
9. Wind
10. The Reconciling
11. Valentine
12. Border Crossing      
13. The Bowl of Blue Sky
14. Sierra Blanca
15. Continental Break / Juárez                                                 
16. Western Skies

Tour Dates:
September 8 - Austin, TX @ Studio Show
September 25 - Charlotte, WV @ Mountain Stage
October 13 - Austin, TX @ Studio Show
October 15 - Marfa, TX @ Crowley Theater
October 22 - Austin, TX @ Songwriting Masterclass
October 29 - Blanco, TX @ 4th Street Gallery
November 6 - Austin, TX @ Texas Book Festival
November 5 - Brenham, TX @ Barnhill Center
November 17 - Austin, TX @ Studio Show
December 8 - Austin, TX @ Studio Show
December 29 -  Austin, TX @ Studio Show

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