Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., April 14, 2017
Lone Star song whisperers (octogenarians Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson), their inheritors (septuagenarians Terry Allen, Butch Hancock, Billy Joe Shaver), and great grand inheritors (sexagenarians Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Robert Earl Keen) left a palpable void for the half-century set: Slaid Cleaves, Bruce Robison, Darden Smith. Out of the lot, the longtime local latter from the East Texas town of Brenham still falls between the singer-songwriter cracks. Smith's 15th release does Everything that career peaks including Little Victories (1993), Sunflower (2002), and previous LP Love Calling (2013) accomplished, only too much so. Opener "Blessings" begins with a Bruce Hornsby piano lope, and "Against the Grain" in the third spot ranks among the singer's best, trademarked by gentle acoustic guitar, soft percussion, and a tender delivery. Between them, "Firefly" pulls off a perfect romantic metaphor, but that same delivery, tempo, and percussion flatlines – lethargic – while "Love Will Win the War" ("hate might win the battle, but ...") is simply trite. "Soul Searching," "Carousel" despite Kelly Willis' sweet harmony, and closer "Can You See the Moon" flounder as well, moving past peaceful to listless.