Savannah Smith: Just a Girl and Her Uke

I happened upon Savannah Smith’s music a few months ago after reading her profile on Volume One‘s website. I was immediately drawn in by her vocal style and the mix of emotive expression I heard. There are themes of romantic connection, the existence of God, how love affects us the same way as a bottle of liquor… The young lady has much to say and I appreciate the way she says it. Smith describes her style as “uketastic” on her Facebook page, which is about the only way I know to describe it as well. Her music does not fit neatly into any category, and she ranges from acoustic pop to country-influenced folk to alt folk.

I was privileged to hear this mix of emotion, themes, and styles live at The Cabin back  in February. Smith played a full set that night, just her and her ukulele. And while she and her uke were the only things producing sounds on that stage, they were enough to fill the room and show a glimpse of the talent that resides inside this artist.

Before I mention more about the actual performance, let me say that I truly enjoyed Smith’s presence on stage. She was unassuming and freely shared her sense of humor and fun stories from the road. She talked about Tom Petty’s influence and how creepy he seems to her. She talked about sleeping in her car while touring and some unknown creatures that she discovered while traveling in Kansas. Again, she was entertaining even when not playing her songs.

Then, there were the songs. She played a mix of original songs and covers. One of the covers was Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” With apologies to fans of “The Boss,” I enjoyed her version of the song much more than the original. Her original songs included the recently released single, “Lost As They Come” (more on this song below). If this single is any indication of what we can expect from Smith going forward, I can’t wait to hear more.

I loved what I heard from Smith that night at The Cabin, and it left me wanting to hear more. She has several songs uploaded on Reverbnation and Soundcloud, and I recently took the opportunity to listen. I’m so glad I did. I’m glad that I was able to take a more intimate listen to “Lost As They Come.” What an intense song… The lyrics paint the picture of a discussion between Smith and someone else about the existence of God. It is an intense song, with deep, brooding undertones serving as its foundation both lyrically and musically. I also seriously enjoyed her ditty about the effects of love on an individual, “Love Is Like a Bottle of Gin.” It’s a short tune that tells us that love (or a bottle of gin) can “turn a genius into an ass,” and that, though they are both colorless, they can make us see rainbows. I love the clever lyrics and profoundly true comparisons between those two intoxicating entities. Another great song on her Soundcloud page is “Ventriloquism,” which sounds like a defiant anthem. The combination of her ukulele, some bass, and some harmonica provides a raw country/folk/Americana sound that matches the emotional intensity of her vocals and lyrical content.

The common themes in all of these songs and her live performance at the Cabin are two simple things: her ukulele and her vocals. I am, admittedly, no connoisseur of ukulele performances. However, there is a simplicity in the uke that lends itself well to Smith’s songwriting and vocal style. Regarding her vocals, upon first listen, you may think that you’ve heard other vocalists that sound like her. To an extent, that may be true, but there is a clarity and crispness to her vocals that make her unique, in my opinion. When her vocals and uke come together, there is lovely simplicity and an underlying “cuteness” (for lack of a better word), no matter the intensity of the tune or lyrical content. This simplicity and cuteness draws the listener in quickly and it eases the listener into whatever emotional expression is to come. This dynamic is one of the main reasons to be excited about Savannah Smith’s music.

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