At the close of 2019, Great Affairs man Denny Smith released an excellent solo album ‘From The Dark’. It’s choice of title was inspired by his receiving the all clear from a serious illness and its stripped down arrangements were a direct reaction to the amount of time the singer-songwriter had spent pondering life, the universe and everything during the writing and recording process. Despite the following year being sidelined by a global pandemic, Smith’s world trucked on, and The Great Affairs released ‘Everybody Moves, Nobody Gets Hurt’, an album of enjoyable retro rockers that very much showed the band taking a very much business as usual approach.
Best known as being one of the creative forces behind Nashville’s The Great Affairs, Denny Smith is a prolific songwriter. At any given time, he’s stockpiling ideas for new songs and recording demos. He even seems to instinctively know whether the song idea is destined for his main band, a solo album, or even a side project where oddities ultimately end up.
Various stripped back ideas formed his first solo album ‘An Overnight Low’ in 2016. It was a record that appeared to reach an audience of twelve people. His second solo record, ‘From The Dark’ gathers more introspective material that wouldn’t all fit with the Great Affairs mould of straight up roots rock, but fans of that band will surely find an easily recognisable voice within the album’s ten songs. As its title suggests, ‘From The Dark’ is an album that often seems concerned with a future unknown and of life’s unexpected wobbles. The songs are often presented in a way that its messages come from up close and, in Smith’s own words, are “stripped of artifice”. Although he says the album isn’t about story-telling in the strictest sense, more a case of “getting things off [his] chest as unself-conciously as possible”, From The Dark’ is personal, but rarely feels like a voyage into abject misery. Even at its most heart-wrenching, it appears thoughtful and reflective; you won’t find anything here that’s as laid barely as, say, Mike Viola’s heartbreaking ‘Painkillers’ or Joni Mitchell’s ‘Little Green’.
In 2010, back when Real Gone was in its embryonic stages, we received an email from a musician in the US asking if we’d review the then new album by his band The Great Affairs. That man was Denny Smith, singer-songwriter and previously a member of rock band fORMER. When he contacted us again approximately five months later, he had the distinction of being the very first artist to approach Real Gone for repeat coverage. Almost ten years on from that first contact, Denny dropped by to tell us all about the new album, his extra-curricular projects and more besides. The Great Affairs’ current album, ‘Ten & 2’ could be their best yet…
The Great Affairs have evolved over the years. On their second album ‘Ricky Took The Wheels’ they owed a reasonable debt to The Black Crowes in terms of influence; by the following year, they were experimenting with stripped back Americana and, two years hence, their music – with a guiding hand from a new rhythm section featuring drummer/vocalist Kenny Wright – things had moved further towards gritty bar-room rock. Whatever the chosen style, though, each release could be relied upon for a handful of superb tracks.
Following their third release ‘Happy Ender’ in 2011, US roots rockers seemed set to call time on their career, with frontman Denny Smith moving on to other projects. Luckily, they had a change of heart and following a shift of line up, 2013’s ‘4’ was arguably the best of their career to date.