The Human Wilderness

by Jeffrey T. Smith

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Jeff Smith: "The Human Wilderness" (Acetate). The fine print alone may sell a few copies of this impressive album, since the liner notes credit several past and present members of Mary Chapin Carpenter's band for their tasteful contributions. But if fans of Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, John Mellencamp and Steve Forbert find themselves returning to these songs over and over again, it's because Smith's brand of roots rock strikes a familiar chord. Smith vividly depicts life along America's blue highways, the small towns and the people who inhabit them. It's a realm where, as one character deadpans, the "only one thing you can do here for fun/ Sit around and watch this town eat its young." But it's also where people fall in and out of love and trouble, work killer shifts and rock the night away at gin joints. Smith, who performs at Iota on Thursday, evokes all of this and more, with plenty of old-fashioned soul and craftsmanship.

-By Mike Joyce Washington Post December 15, 1996



REVIEW: THE HUMAN WILDERNESS

The Human Wilderness, is as welcome as a roadside diner on a lonely highway, and his self- penned and heartfelt songs about life in small town USA, are true masterpieces of American music.
While being backed by a phenomenal group of musicians(members of Smith’s backing band include past and present personnel of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s band), Jeff Smith lays down some rockin’ uptempo grooves in the tradition of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen or Steve Earle. This record has extremely strong lyrical content, with a poeticality. Smith makes very strong use of imagery, and as he tells his stories, I could’ve sworn that I was there watching them unfold, also, this record has a strong roots influence, hearing country, bluegrass, blues, and rockabilly vibes throughout.
Inclusively, some of the tracks like “I Never Wanted You to Go”, are stripped down to their bare essentials, just Smith and an acoustic guitar, which really sucks you in to pay attention the strong lyrical content. On “You” we are treated more poetic lyricism along with a great hook, accentuated by a subtle Hammond B3 organ. Another great track is “Happy Now,” a story about a woman struggling with her inner demons, and winning. “Bad News” and “Me and My Daddy” really portray life in a small town, a portrayal of everybody knowing everybody, and the ever present small town rumor mill; and the bluegrass feel of “Me and My Daddy” is the simple story of a man reminiscing about fishing on the Ohio River. “Hideaway Rockin’,” being the rowdiest cut on the disc, evokes images of a blue collar Saturday night watering hole, complete with a rock’ n’ roll band and back seat in the parking lot escapades. The title cut, “The Human Wilderness,” has a country-fried uptempo blues vibe. but the real winner is the “The Human Wilderness” (Reprise) cut which features Jeff Smith putting down some acoustic slide guitar with a great Delta blues feel.
This is one of those records that you can listen to either driving down the highway, or just sitting on the couch with your feet up, while popping the top on a tall cold one. If you’re a fan of good rock’n’roll or roots music, or you just like to hear well written songs, I highly recommend you pick up Jeff Smith’s “The Human Wilderness.”

- String King Las Vegas Music Scene V2#4

credits

released May 1, 2017

This was recorded at BIAS Recording in Springfield Virginia. Rob Schnapf (Beck, Richard Thompson et al) did a lot of the basic tracks and Jim Robeson (Sweet Honey in the Rock, Taj Mahal et al) did overdubs and Jeff Juliano (Dave Matthews, Oar) mixed the tracks.
The basic tracks were recorded in one late night session at Bias and the players were John Jennings, Rico Petrucelli,Rob Magruder and myself. Overdubs took place over the next couple of years whenever I could afford it. Jeff Juliano took the songs to California on vacation and played them for Acetate Records who liked the tracks enough to finace the mixing. I believe the quote was that they liked the album because "you could fight to it?" The song "You" has been used on the show The Young and Restless a half a dozen times and " I Never Wanted You To Go" has been used a several times and "Hideaway Rockin" was placed in a fight scene on the tv show "Army Wives".

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Jeffrey T. Smith Virginia

Inspired and influenced by early country, blues, rock and pop
Jeff Smith writes songs and tells elongated and elliptical stories about them. Jeff's southern drawl slides in and around his guitar playing and Smith says “on a good night the stories and songs ride on top of a funky kind ofcountry blues pop stomp”. Now residing in the swamps of Virginia, Smith performs club gigs and
concerts.
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Track Name: Only One Thing
Only One Thing

Only one thing you can do here for fun
Only one thing you can do here for fun
Sit around and watch this town eat it's young

Only one thing to survive this place
Only one thing to survive this place
Gotta unplug your heart and hide your face

Only one thing you can do for this town
Only one thing you can do for this town
Change the color of the sky and turn it upside down

Only one thing that's ever gonna change
Only one thing that's ever gonna change
That's the subtle difference between terrible and strange

Only one thing you better be countin' on
Only one thing you better be countin' on
No matter how long you're gone, you can't be gone too long.

You never showed me the future,
You only showed me production lines
You're the only one who never felt the crime
Track Name: The Human Wilderness
The Human Wilderness

See them in the car it's the same ever day
The three of them together Tryin' to get away
The girl is in the middle And she's married to the driver
His buddy's on the right And they're feelin like survivors
And when they get off work And head for home
Half an hour later They get in the car and they roam
They roam the human wilderness

Three or four, six packs of beer Some peanuts and cassettes
Killing five hour stretches And sixty cigarettes
They talk about the world When they talk about their town
They ride around the neighborhood In a very fast movin crowd
And when they get off work And head for home
Half an hour later They get in the car and they roam
They roam the human wilderness

See them in the car it's the same ever day
The three of them together Tryin' to get away
The girl is in the middle and she's about to re-marry
Two guys are switching places It makes life around here a little scary
And when they get off work And head for home
Half an hour later They get in the car and they roam
They roam the human wilderness

They got names like Billy,
They got names like Lisa
They got names like Danny
They got got daddies named Cecil

They went to school together
They married each other
They live in the same neighborhood
Three of four blocks from their mother
They roam the human wilderness
Track Name: Hideaway Rockin'
HIDEAWAY ROCKIN'

There's a little known spot down on West Fourth Street
Behind the Kroger parking lot
Where the people in the neighborhood usually end up
Spending all the overtime that they got
Down at the hideaway

The smoke hangs thick over pool playin' dudes
And there's a bandstand in the middle of the room
People crammed in six to a booth
Talkin' real loud and gettin' loose
Down at the hideaway

Turn the jukebox off and let the band get on
It's two in the mornin' and there a'int no stoppin'
This crazy world or the hideaway rockin'

Mad Brenda is steaming cause Suzie is with Mike
The whole place is weaving and there might be a fight
Brit and Elisha slummin' from the East side
Acting like celebrities in neon skin tights
Down at the hideaway

Turn the jukebox off and let the band get on
It's two in the mornin' and there a'int no stoppin'
This crazy world or the hideaway rockin'

Now there's heavy action out in the cars
For business that can not take place in the bar
It is rumored and it is believed
That this is where Danny Martin was conceived
Down at the hideaway
Track Name: How Can This Be
How Can This Be

How can this be my sweet one
I’m at a loss for words and heart
I feel like I’m outside of it all
Watching us fall apart.

Your kisses have turned into paper
And you shy away from my touch
We sleep in different dreams now
We’ve been keeping to ourselves too much.

How can this be my sweet one
I’m at a loss for words and heart
I feel like I’m outside of it all
Watching us fall apart.

I don’t know what to say
That will not leave you feeling hurt
In my mind I keep walking out
Telling myself I will not return.

How can this be my sweet one
I’m at a loss for words and heart
I feel like I’m outside of it all
Watching us fall apart.

Sometimes when you look at me
I don’t know what’s gotten into you
You and I are different people now
Fading from view.
Track Name: I Never Wanted You To Go
I Never Wanted You To Go

I carry your sweet voice
like it is a photograph
Whenever I look at it
I can almost hear you laugh

When I said some foolish things
now I want you to know
While it was so hard to show
No Matter what I said then
I never wanted you to go

Dont you know how I regret
Whenever I remember
Insignificant arguments
When I could not temper my temper

Well I've been feeling sorry for myself
Wondering if you'll ever come back
Writing letters and making calls
But the line is so tight can I have some slack

Oh baby I'm fight them off
These memories you left behind
You come to me in silent dreams
Running your fingers through my mind
Track Name: You
You

You showed me the well
Made me pull the bucket up
Put the ladle up to my mouth
Made me drink it up
When I came to the stars
looked like they were falling
and you were nowhere
When I was calling you.

You on your broken bike
Headed downtown
I met you by the river
We flagged a motorboat down
You typing my poems
by the window in your room
Me dictating letting go
Of all of my balloons for you

How quickly you ran away
I thought I heard you say it's been nice
Knowing you

You told me a story
About an accident
A young boy and a girl
Who never knew what it meant
You took the little one
What did you do
Your mother said you ran away from him
I said no, she ran away from you

Well I waited for a letter
Some kind of nice word or sign
But I never heard from you
Track Name: Over in The Fields
Over in the Fields

I bought a 79 chevy in 85
'n that's it over in the fields
Those two trucks were my grandaddy's n'
He bought 'em just before the paint all peeled
Terry my brother left his wagon there n'
That Olsmobile is the one his wife crashed
Their three kids and my two boys
Each a have a couple that are broken and smashed
Over in the fields

Some people buy clothes and houses and such
But that don't turn my wheels
Around here buddy we but these cars
We fix 'em up and make each other deals
It might run for a week, it might run for a year
We keep 'em as long as it's got a good feel
We ain't goin' nowhere, nobody ever does
We just drive 'em in the dirt then we leave'em in the fields

Over in the fields
Cars and busses and Frigidaires
All of 'em rusting over in the fields
Vegetation grows up all around 'em who cares

I got a '87 Ford pick up truck
'n I used to haul parts for these cars
But lately I've been haulin radar antenna
That pull in tv beams from the stars
Jimmy Johnson gave me two hundred dollars
Cash money to move his old rusted outs
I rented a wrecker and it took me all day
And part of another till the winch gave out and there it sits
Over in the fields

Over in the fields
Cars and busses and Frigidaires
All of 'em rusting over in the fields
Vegetation grows up all around 'em who cares

Over in the fields you might find somebodys old news papers
Over in the fields you might find somebodys old abandoned love nest
Over in the fields you might find somebodys old beat up baby doll
Over in the fields you might find some you might find some
you might find some body over in the fields.
Track Name: The Grindstone
The Grindstone

Some people got a job they really like
They don't mind gettin up to go
But most every one that I ever known
Feels like the work they do is not their own

It's a back breaking, mind numbing, hell of a rut
Trying to keep your family in a home
Bitchin' and a moanin' workin' and a groanin'
The grindstone's a killer and it's first degree

The boss thinks he's cool but he's just a jerk
He doesn't care about you and he does not work
He'll hang out the carrot of security
But when you want that raise you gotta get on your knees

It's a back breaking, mind numbing, hell of a rut
Trying to keep your family in a home
Bitchin' and a moanin' workin' and a groanin'
The grindstone's a killer and it's first degree

People around here have learned to live with fate
They go to jobs that they tolerate
As long as there's a weekend to recooperate
From a babe to the grave you can appreciate

It's a back breaking, mind numbing, hell of a rut
Trying to keep your family in a home
Bitchin' and a moanin' workin' and a groanin'
The grindstone's a killer and it's first degree
Track Name: Bad News (Leave Her to Him)
Bad News (Leave Her to Him)

I know you know how it is in this town
The bad news travels fast and the good doesn't get around
Are you gonna sit here with your head in your hands
You better start playin this game like you understand

So what if she's found another and she is out again
You'll find another and you can leave her to him

Loose talk and rumors fill the lives of the bored
The tell their stories and the tally up the scores
When you become a character in this play
You have too invent yourself until you leave the stage

So what if she's found another and she is out again
You'll find another and you can leave her to him

Now the camera's on and you start to move
Like you just found out that she's leaving you
This scene is easy and you throw her a kiss
And the curtain closes like eyelids on a wish

So what if she's found another and she is out again
You'll find another and you can leave her to him
Track Name: Me and My Daddy
Me and My Daddy

Me and my daddy up at dawn
Diggin' for worms in our backyard
Stuffin' 'em into a coffee can
Fishin' poles in our hands.
I'm ten years old and I can't wait to go
Half a mile to the Ohio
It's like a jungle gettin' there
Trees and vines grow everywhere

Sittin' on the bank in the cool clean air
The better part of fishin' is to sit and stare
Hopin' to catch a big catfish
Rub his belly and you make a wish
Cause if that catfish meows at you
You got a good chance your wish come true
But if that catfish starts to grin
You could get cut on one of his fins

Black iron skillet and it's full of grease
Eat all the bacon that we please
The smell of the river and the tast of toast
Comes in a memory like a ghost
I'm out in the water up to my knees
Watchin' the barges from the coal companies
I'm so happy when the captain waves
I can hear the ship's whistle like it was yesterday