Darden Smith

Texas platters

Phases and Stages

Darden Smith

Field of Crows (Dualtone)

Darden Smith is in full bloom. Like 2002's Sunflower and 2004's Circo, Smith's third album for Dualtone is as unadulterated as it is adult. The impeccable musicianship one expects from a Nashville-based label matches the Austin master craftsman's seamlessly self-assured adult contemporary pop, this Field of Crows flown in from NYC. "Golden Age" ("of pain") is a wickedly mellow hip-rubber that in the Seventies would've double-dated with Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight." As always, Smith's melodies go down like Merlot, even if concerns turn sobering, as with the title track ("watching as my world spins out of control"). Maybe only Darden Smith could deliver that line like he lives on Venice Beach. If his voice were a little less singer-songwriter and more Sting, he'd have it made. Album centerpiece "Spinning Wheel" isn't wrung out of Blood, Sweat & Tears, but Bonnie Raitt wants this late-night encounter next to her fireplace. "Satisfied" and equally caressed "It Takes Two," back to back, stoke adult embers like Boz Scaggs' Silk Degrees. "Fight for Love" could be a lot more subtle, but golden "Boy" and smoldering closer "All That I Wanted" chase off the crows. Darden Smith, the constant gardener.

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