Charlotte, North Carolina-based singer and songwriter Randy Smith has been around the rock-and-roll block more than a few times, with the transplanted New Englander having recorded four albums as lead vocalist for the former Burlington-based AOR rockers 8084.
Therefore it was with great anticipation this reviewer get the opportunity to "sneak preview" Randy's debut solo CD release Bittersweet, recorded on the New York City-based GB Music label.
It is obvious from the outset that not only does Smith use these songs to create his own musical path, but also through the cultivating from past experences, sort of walking a fine line between moving forward without forgetting where you have been.
This is also evident in the fact that Randy loves to surround himself with his very talented friends, including original 8084 guitarist and drummer Andre Maquera and Gary Spaulding, guest vocalists Keeghan Nolan and Wendy Maquera, as well as drummer/producer extrordinaire Hirsh Gardner, formerly of MCA recording artists New England ("Don't Ever Wanna Lose Ya").
Recorded over a three year period between Charlotte, Fairfield, VT and Salem, NH, all the tracks were written and arranged by Smith and produced by Maquera.
The entire project was also mixed and mastered at Maquera's own West Street Digital studio in Fairfield. The result is a compelling blend of melodic pop, but also balanced with other natural, acoustic arrangments that also feature deeper and obviously more personal lyrics than Randy has shown in the past.
Heck, even the cover artwork and design is created by Randy through his own Synchronicity Web Designs.
The disc-opening "Learning 2 Live", along with "Somebody" and "Shelter Me" certainly harks back to Randy's rockin' escapades as front man for the aforementioned 8084, who ransacked their way throughout New England and Canada for nearly two decades. However don't expect an 8084 replicate here by any means. Although there are certainly rock-and-roll sensibilities lying within, it is also evident that Bittersweet searches for a deeper meaning and reflection.
Songs such as "Cold Outside", "Broken" and "Bleed" seemingly evoke a much more personal and soulful approach if you will, while other tracks like "Can't Stop", "Cowboys" and the title track create a more organic, roots-like vibe. While still other tracks that are specifically written for family such as the moody "All My Life" and "Savannah's Song", become about as personal and heart-felt as it gets.
Of course, the one common thread throughout Bittersweet is Smith's natural-yet-refined vocal style, which is a noticeably mature progression from his aforementioned early rockin' days.
Pristine in its' delivery, Randy is able to capture a true essence in his lyrics through voice.. they just seem an effortless vehicle for each other.
This aspect especially, leaves no doubt of the time, passion, dedication and love the artist has put into his craft.Yes, Bittersweet was a long time coming for both Randy and his fans, and it was no doubt, worth the wait. Learn more about Randy Smith's new CD release Bittersweet at www.randotunes.com.