It was a bit difficult to trace background information on Kathy Smith. She was part of the California folkie scene, playing at local venues and coffeehouses. A legendary venue but rather unknown was Paradox where people like Tim Buckley, Jackson Browne, Steve Noonan, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John McEuen, and Penny Nichols used to play. Nobody found out about the place so it had to close down. The musicians found a new podium at the Troubadour. I am not sure around what time Kathy Smith started to share stages, and hang around with them, but especially with people like Penny Nichols, Pamela Polland and Jackson Browne (a close contact which explains how their songs ended up on her albums. Pamela Polland (also known from her album The Gentle Soul) was going to appear on her debut too). Penny Nichols, who first sang with a bluegrass band with John, Bill & Alice McEuen (until John took Jackson Browne's place in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), then formed a duo with Kathy Smith called the Greasy Mountain Butterballs which toured Vietnam in the fall of 1966. I read from a testimony of her days at the Troubadour how “Kathy was the first person I ever heard use the term "Love Generation", and she was housemother to the bunch of us. And she had this 100 megawatt smile.”
Kathy Smith did record a couple of albums for Richie Havens' Stormy Forest label in the early 70s, a label that didn’t really make it enough and was closed down pretty quickly. The albums pretty interesting personnel: Colin Walcott (only later he was going to focus much more on his sitar playing to become a great jazz fusion solo artist; he was part of the group Oregon around that time)*, Tony Levin, Jan Hammer, Artie Traum, jazz flutist Jeremy Steig, and Jim Fielder (Blood, Sweat & Tears) were among the players who appeared on either or both albums. The production (led by Mark Roth, engineered by Val Valentin) and partly beautifully orchestrated arrangements (and brass arrangements on the last track) are simply perfect.
From both albums she did, I still think the first one was most convincing. There is a certain hippie link factor involved in the songwriting, (on her second album she’s dressed up on a live occasion as a native Indian, not sure with which associations)°, of why couldn’t people all love each other ? Just once and a while her voice tries to mobilize others but only with certain songs, where she is convincing with more power. But mostly she sounds more sad and beautiful, like a gentle soul musing her songs, with the best attention and arrangements she could imagine to receive, leaving just a handful guitar-with-voice tracks more alone.
* Colin Walcott is a musician which still misses the attentionn on my sitar-related webpages that he deserves.
° According to her niece Elizabeth Wetherell "she is in fact an enrolled member of the Keweenaw Bay Band of Ojibwe. Also interesting to note, she played at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival. Her name was mispelled on one of the programs (Cathy) but it is indeed her."
Another witness, Roland also confirmed me that "she appeared at the 1970 Isle Of Wight festival on Wednesday 26 August 1970. The festival attracted more than 600 000 people."
Audio : "End Of World", "Same Old Lady", "Circles Of Love"
Info : http://www.soundlinkmusic.com/…
Details : http://www.collinwalcott.com/discography/somesongs.php
Some info on her early cooperation with Penny Nichols : http://www.pennynichols.com/bio.htm
About the Stormy Forest label : http://www.bsnpubs.com/mgm/stormyforest.html
Some remarks about Kathy Smith I adapted from http://www.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/topics/160/Richie-Unterberger-Turn-Turn-Tur-page06.html
Review of '2' : http://www-tech.mit.edu/archives/VOL_092/TECH_V092_S0230_P007.pdf
Visite the 1970 Isle of Wight festival forum at
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