Another Americana record from the band delivered with honesty and integrity
The genesis of '400 Cigarettes' began way back in 2019 with two tracks recorded, but like so many things, the album stalled when Covid came along. The album may not be about the time the world stood still, but that loss of time is something that hangs over the album. Melancholy of regret and lost love drips through this album's core.
The tracks are mostly about addiction and ending a relationship, which are pretty much songwriting staples. The difference here is that while the songs are not necessarily autobiographical when taken as a body of work they give the impression that we are listening to a raw journey of breakups and recovery. It's probably helped by the fact that country music is get to the heart of the human condition in a way that many other genres, with the exception of blues, do not.
Josh Smith writes as candidly as he sings, his solo performance on 'If I could' highlights his vocal sincerity when he's not in front of a band. It's not only sadness that is palpable through Josh's writing, with lines like "you're hope and misery all wrapped into one", there's a romanticism to the music too. 'Wyoming's' bittersweet lyrics are matched by the yearning dobro ( played J. Tom Hnatow, who played on Ringo Starr’s album, 'Give More Love'.) On a personal level, I've always found that a dobro is one of the most expressive instruments that's able to create atmosphere and emotion in a way that other instruments or vocals can't and it's used perfectly on this opening track.
The titular track shifts direction with a heavier, blues-country sound which suits the band. It's a gem of a track that really should give the band more notoriety. 'Self Defence' also aims for a more soft rock radio feel. Another track that needs should elevate the band is 'Good Morning From Nashville', a sleepy ballad with a great melody and mournful country lyrics.
Like much of Josh Smith's other work, there is nothing superfluous here, even the arrangements are spacious, underscoring the honesty and integrity of the lyrics. It's a bit of a slow burner, but it does get under your skin and is ultimately as addictive as the chain-smoking title would suggest.