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Jack Smith and the Rockabilly Planet

Can't Help Myself – 1999 (Run Wild)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by Jack Smith and the Rockabilly Planet

The Providence-based Jack Smith and his band, the Rockabilly Planet, have been mainstays of New England clubs for years, though things have been quiet for Smith on the recording front for years, his most recent release being a late '80's album for Flying Fish.

And while one hopes that listeners won't have another decade-long wait for the next album, this was worth the wait. Although a rockabilly influence is still present at times ("Honky Tonk Legend" and the title track), the focus this time around is on Smith's country chops, which are substantial, indeed. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Smith has brought on Bill Kirchen as both producer and a frequent lead guitarist, nor does it hurt that Smith has two superb guitarists to begin with in Jerry Miller and Bill Coover. The album kicks off in fine style with the stone-cold honky-tonk of "King of the Show," featuring superb guitar work from Kirchen, who also contributes harmony lead vocals on two tracks, particularly "The Only One." Also notable is "Hardtown," co-written by Smith, Jerry Miller, and Smith's pal Dave Alvin (who also supplies liner notes).

In spite of the big names dropping by, the album is Smith's baby from start to finish; all songs being either written or co-written by Smith, the exception being a cover of Touissant McCall's "Nothing Takes the Place of You." Nice to have Smith back.