Darden Smith

Texas platters

Phases and Stages

Darden Smith

Circo (Dualtone)

Circo is a nighttime album, meant to wash away the hectic day, wind down to. It's a quiet, thoughtful album, but forceful, with the venerable veteran Austin singer-songwriter Darden Smith enacting Circo's title by moving from concern about earthly love to a more transcendent love and then resolving the two. The sleepy opening track, "What Are We Gonna Do," accented by the ubiquitous Lloyd Maines' pedal steel, finds a couple facing a quandary in their relationship. "Shooting Star," co-written by Abra Moore, shifts gears seamlessly, and it's Michael Ramos' jaunty Hammond organ that gives the song a hopeful bounce. "One Hundred Ways" turns its focus to loving God and acknowledging that there are as many ways to do that as there are people to do it. It's a profoundly thought-provoking – and necessary – statement against religious imperialism. In Circo's final movement, "All Around You," Smith likens his love to that of God's, wanting to encircle his loved one in a bubble of devotion. It's a nice coda for this album's journey. Circo is deceptively simple in that it lacks the vocal showmanship of a Martin Sexton or the guitar virtuosity of a Tim Easton. Smith chooses to step back and let his words do the talking, keeping the delivery spare and the subject matter satisfyingly complex.

***.5

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