05 October 2022
Bruce Smith’s 1000 Horses album opens with “Campbellton,” which rocks and rolls to a rockabilly rhythm. What follows, though, is not some sort of Stray Cats offshoot, however, but a collection of mainly country-leaning roots rock.
For example, the memory-jarring “Take a Picture” combines a chunky electric guitar groove along with empathetic fiddle. The album’s title track, “1000 Horses,” has a folk-ish tint to it, as it begins with mournful harmonica. Smith sings its words with a desperately sad vocal tone. It’s a twangy number that merges folk sounds with more distinctly country ones.
One titled “Venus Fell,” however, is the album’s most intriguing inclusion. It sounds, both vocally and melodically, like that old Frankie Avalon 1959 hit, “Venus.” It’s driven by gypsy fiddling and a lightly loping groove. Unlike Avalon’s plea to the Greek goddess of love to help him with his romantic troubles, however, Smith’s song is more about the mythological character’s personal issues.
Smith returns to the upbeat sounds initially explored with “Campbellton” for “See You in the Movies,” about a girl with big screen dreams. Smith sings it over an instrumental bed that includes both piano and organ, as well as an electric guitar solo. Although Smith rocks a bit on the song, he nevertheless rocks rather gently. His vocals have a bit of a working-class character weaved into his performance, which may remind you of early Bruce Springsteen. Its retro approach, however, comes off more like an old school description of an acting jones. It doesn’t really address the more cutthroat nature of the contemporary film world.
The project’s best shot at a hit single is “Everything I Need.” On it, Smith comes off wide open and optimistic. It’s infused with the joys of love and romance. The guitar fills mirror his happy vocals. It sounds a little like some of those great old soul songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s. The future just seemed wide open whenever these songs came over the radio. One suspects the same good vibes would be produced by this song being played on radio today. And in a perfect world, it would be all over the radio, all over the world. Speaking of happy songs, “Don’t Forget to Look Up” is a little like a positive thinking pamphlet put to music. Just as hopeful people encourage the stopping and smelling of roses, Smith doesn’t let the listener forget about the need to look up and away from sad sights. These words of encouragement are accompanied by an upbeat groove similar to a church gospel song – only a white country church, rather than an African American one. Smith closes the album with “Late Night DJ,” which is about hoping the DJ will play the right song to lift his spirits. By the language he uses, these are oldies he’s hearing that are making him feel “not so all alone.” There are times when that radio DJ can feel like your only friend. Of course, this was back when
DJs had more recognizable personalities and radio stations had more playlist flexibility. Bruce Smith sometimes sounds like he’s stuck in a time warp, back when we all lived in more innocent times. If this music is a journey back in time, though, it’s sure one pleasurable blast from the past.
Dan MacIntosh - Dan MacIntosh has been a professional music journalist for 30 years and his work has regularly appeared in many local and national publications, including Inland Empire Weekly, CCM, CMJ, Paste, Mean Street, Chord, HM, Christian Retailing, Amplifier, Inspirational Giftware, Stereo Subversion, Indie-Music, Soul–Audio, Roughstock.com, Country Standard Time and Spin.com.