The title track is a perfect example of Smith’s style: friendly and upbeat with a Jimmy Buffet feel-good vibe. His Randy Newman-esque vocals set the listener instantly at ease, and with his strong songwriting prowess Smith is able to weave story-songs that grab your attention and bring you in. For Drivin’ All Night Smith has arraigned a huge list of area musicians to join him, including Kenny Taylor on guitar, John Morreale on bass, Thomas Cooley on drums, Kenny Holycross on pedal steel guitar and Nick Gulacsy on accordion. These seasoned musicians make tight work on these arrangements, sounding like they wrote the songs themselves.
An album highlight is the new version of the bittersweet classic “Still In Love With You,” which incorporates accordion, a touch of banjo by Paul Kioebge and Fort Wayne Philharmonic violinist Jesse Hawkins laying down some amazing fiddle work. Speaking of fiddle, “Hi Ho Silver” is riddled with fiddle, although the rest of this western-tinged ditty is no slouch. “Slippin’ Through My Fingers” is a more rocking version of an earlier recorded song, this one with an impressive bass line and a very unique style that refuses to be held down. The character “Good and Tight” also refuses to be held down, having found himself strapped tight in a mental institution but able to make an eventual escape, all accompanied by a delightfully bouncy county-rock melody. Smith takes a step back from the insanity with the simple, sweet, and sincere “Kahlil,”a song for a newborn boy that promises to take your heart with just one of the many gorgeous, singable, catchy melodies that adorn this album.
As on past releases Mark Paul Smith turned to Robin Jenney at Sweetwater Sound for recording expertise. The result is Sweetwater’s expected astoundingly high production values that coexist peacefully with the masterful, mature songwriting and musicianship, giving the 12 easy-on-the-ear tracks on Drivin’ All Night the strong sendoff that they deserve. Stop by www.serge.org/markpaulsmith/ and find out for yourself how swoon-worthy these songs really are.
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