On Stage: Smooth Hound Smith rocks with conviction

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Smooth Hound Smith

Smooth Hound Smith, which is headlining a show at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com) on September 23 is like an Americana band with balls.

The band, which was founded by Zack Smith (guitars/vocals/foot drums/harmonicas/banjo) and Caitlin Doyle-Smith (vocals/percussion), records and performs a varied style of folky, garage-infused rhythm & blues. Using primal foot percussion, complex, fuzzed-out, finger-picked guitar patterns, warbled harmonicas, tasty harmonies and syncopated tambourine, the duo plays a modern interpretation of early blues, soul, and rock-and-roll roll.

Smooth Hound Smith is now touring in support of its new album, “Dog in a Manger.”

“The album was officially released on August 9,” said Zack Smith, during a phone interview last week from the couple’s home in East Nashville.

“We were trickling out singles for a while – five of then – just trying to rustle up interest. Part of me knows singles. We’re back to a singles culture. But there’s something I like about making an album and bringing it to fruition.”

Caitlin Smith said, “We grew up with albums and so did our fan base, which is all age groups. So, there are people like us who want to buy albums. We love albums.”

Zack said, “I also like vinyl. We just got the vinyl of the album this week. It took a while for it to get done but when you’re putting out an album on vinyl, there is a need for patience.”

Caitlin added, “Also, there are few physical things that aren’t packaged in hard plastic anymore. Our vinyl album even comes with a poster.”

“Dog in a Manger,” which sounds like what you’d see on a Christmas card from an animal rescue center, has been a while in the making.

“We cut the album over the course of a year dating back to 2017,” said Zack.

“Our friend Jesse Thompson runs a studio converted from a house called fat Back Studio. He engineered the record and Steve Daley co-produced it. The majority of it was the four of us going back-and-forth between the studio and the control room.”

Caitlin said, “It’s mostly Zack – between the four of us, it was mostly Zack.”

The duo released its self-titled album in 2014 and followed with the sophomore album, “Sweet Tennessee Honey” in 2016.

“From a songwriting standpoint, our first album had songs we had been sitting with for a while,” said Zack. “You know what they say – you have your whole life to make your first album and 18 months to make your second.

“Sonically, we’re putting together a catalog of things we like to listen to. It’s not all one genre. Our influences include R&B, bossa nova, ballads, lighter folk songs and heavier rock.”

Caitlin said, “We’re also influenced by jazz, Motown and acts like Tom Petty, Neil Young and the Travelling Wilburys..”

With three albums from which to draw, Smooth Hound Smith have plenty of songs for their live show.

“Our live show is a mix,” said Caitlin. “We’re excited to be bringing a rhythm section. It’s a four-pierce with Sammi Potts on drums and Justin Serwerda on bass. We like it this way bwecauise it’s difficult to go out as a duo.”

Video link for Smooth Hound Smith – https://youtu.be/J8gH7MgClY4.

The show at Boot & Saddle will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Lily & Madeleine and The Ophelias on September 24, and Drahla and Russian Baths on September 25.

What is Skerrymore?


Is it – a) a remote island that lies off the west coast of Scotland; b) the tallest lighthouse in Scotland; c) a Scottish rock band that has been around for 15 years; d) a museum in Tiree, Scotland; or e) all of the above.

The correct answer is “e.”

While you’d need to travel to the U.K. to see three of the four, you can see Skerrymore the band when it headlines a show at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) on September 24.

Hailing from the island of Tiree, Skerryvore formed in 2005. The band’s music is an eclectic fusion of rock, pop and traditional music with an emphatic thundering of drums and bagpipes and is as rich as a single malt scotch. With outstanding musicianship and the mesmerizing voice of award-winning Alec Dalglish, Skerryvore has become an international sensation. 

In addition to Dalglish on lead vocals and guitar, the band includes brothers Daniel Gillespie (accordion) and Martin Gillespie (bagpipes, whistles & accordions), Fraser West (drums & vocals), Craig Espie (fiddles), Alan Scobie (keyboards), Jodie Bremaneson (bass) and Scott Wood (bagpipes).  

Skerryvore’s earlier work was ‘West Coast Ceilidh’ inspired, with Celtic influences which have remained present in all their work. As the band evolved, rock, pop, jazz, Cajun and country influences have influenced the sound but the traditional Celtic roots and instrumentation have remained.

Skerryvore, which is now based in Glasgow, Scotland, is bringing its “360 World Tour” to Philly. The band has toured the entire year of 2019 all the while filming every show with a specialized 360 camera.

“The ‘360 Camera Tour’ was just a fun idea,” said Dalglish, during a phone interview last Friday, a few hours after the band landed in America after its Trans-Atlantic flight from Glasgow.

“It’s a special camera with 360-degree capability. It uploads things in segments. You can swipe left, swipe right, you get a panoramic view.”

The “360 Tour” began with a performance at Skerryvore’s own music festival ‘Oban Live’ which sold out to 10,000 people over two days in the beautiful west coast town of Oban in Scotland.

The tour includes visits to Spain, Germany, Denmark, Holland, England, Dubai, Singapore, Australia and several runs in the U.S. and Canada. The finale of the tour in June of 2020 will be the Skerryvore’s biggest show to date with a special grand event to celebrate 15 years as a band. All of the shows will feature the 360 camera.

According to Dalglish, “The camera offers the chance for fans to see life on the road and on stage from our perspective with much of it being filmed for possible use for a documentary on down the line.”

The band’s most recent album was “Evo,” which was released in June 2018. It features all original tunes plus one cover song and ranges from big blast numbers to heartfelt reflective tracks.

Skerryvore’s previous albums were “West Coast Life” (2005), “On the Road” (2007), “Skerryvore” (2010), “World of Chances” (2012), “Chasing the Sun” (2014), and “Decade” (2015).

“We’re playing a fair amount of songs from ‘Evo’ and also older ones that don’t leave the set,” said Dalglish. “There are no songs from ‘West Coast Life’ and ‘On the Road.’ They were too long ago. But we do play ‘On the Road’ sometimes because it’s the first sound we wrote on our own. ‘West Coast Life’ was very traditional.

“We’re more rock now ‘On the Road’ was the transition to us writing our own stuff. ‘On the Road’ was the first song I wrote. I still write all the songs and arrange the music to give to the band.

“But these traditional elements will never end. Songs start out with pop or rock. Then, I’ll write parts geared for accordion or pipes – or maybe fiddle. We do have two pipers in the band.”

Skerryvore is twice winners of Scotland’s Traditional Music Awards coveted “Live Act of the Year” (2011 and 2016). The band has performed in more than 25 countries and is very popular in the Middle East, China, U.K. and the U.S.

“We formed in 2004 and I never expected us to be doing this 15 years later,” said Dalglish. “We’ve been coming to America for eight or nine years. Early on, it would be for a festival and we’d add a pub date at the end. It took quite a long time to get to the next level. It’s only been the last five years that we’ve been doing the bigger tours.”

Video link for Skerryvore – https://youtu.be/cbDn7PNM0F4.

The show at the World Café Live, which has House of Hamill as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22 and $27.

Other upcoming shows this week at the venue are Leslie Stevens on September 25 and Toby Lightman on September 26.

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