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Songwriter and finger-style guitarist Chris Smither has more than a dozen albums and a couple of songbooks to his credit. - Photo by Jeff Fasano

A thinking person's bluesman

Folk guitarist and songwriter Chris Smither holds a long tradition of performing other artists' work during his live shows and on his recordings. Others, such as blues artist Bonnie Raitt, have covered many of his tunes. Smither's "Love Me Like a Man" appeared on Raitt's 1972 album "Give It Up," and his "I Feel the Same" showed up on her 1973 "Takin' My Time."

"Like a Man" is a signature song of Raitt's live performances, and the tune is on several of her live albums. Notables who've covered Smither's songs include Emmylou Harris and Diana Krall, among many others.

Smither penned "Love You Like a Man" and seven other originals for his 1970 debut album "I'm a Stranger, Too." The album also featured covers of Neil Young's "I Am a Child" and Randy Newman's "Have You Seen My Baby?" and "Old Kentucky Home."

A dozen other albums and a couple of songbooks have followed Smither through his 40-year songwriting career. His 13th album, "Time Stands Still," was released in 2009.

Smither will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Unitarian Center, 84 Fourth St., Ashland.

A thinking person's bluesman, Smither is someone who uses the genre as a base to craft lyrics that go beyond the repetitive structure of traditional blues. A solo artist for most of his career, Smither played with drummer Zak Trojano and guitarist and producer David "Goody" Goodrich for 2009's "Time Stands Still."

The trio came together when Smither needed a band for his show at the Blue Highways Festival in Utrecht, Netherlands. After the gig, Smither heard a CD that the show's soundman made off the board and decided that it was the sound he wanted for his next record.

"Time Stands Still" was recorded in just three days, the direct result of one gig at Blue Highways and the challenge it presented.

It features eight originals by Smither and, in keeping with his tradition, a version of Bob Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry." There's also a tune by 1920s country-blues songwriter Frank Hutchison, and the album closes with Mark Knopfler's "Madame Geneva," a song about a period in British history when entertainment for the lower classes included drinking gin and attending public executions.

The songs are met with a studio sound that is loose and clear — highlighting Goody on an array of guitars, Smither's finger-picking and Trojano on a range of percussion — and captures the freewheeling spirit of the show at Blue Highways.

Tickets cost $20 in advance, $22 at the door and $10 for ages 12 through 17. Ages younger than 12 will be admitted free. Advance tickets are available at Music Coop, by calling 541-535-3562 or at www.stclairevents.com.

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