Fred Smith – Look


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SKU: TN2530-90 Category:


Fred Smith writes songs. Some of them are sad. Some of them are funny. Some of them are sad and funny. Some of them are quite serious. They have melodies and stories you can remember – that stay with you and keep you company. Fred’s songs reflect the world he has seen in what, so far, has been a messy and interesting life. He was the subject of an Australian Story documentary feature about his experiences in Afghanistan and Bougainville. His book, The Dust of Uruzgan, was published by Allen and Unwin.


An easy raconteur with a deep catalogue of great songs, Fred and band never repeat a song from set to set at a festival. His solo albums and collaborative recordings with Liz Frencham and The Spooky Men’s Chorale are on many people’s ‘best ever’ lists. His songs capture the human complexities of the countries he has worked in – Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, the USA, and lately Australia – with poetry that is wry, tender and comprehending.

Departing from his recent output on Afghanistan, this album, Look, is full of wry musings about the ordinary stuff and the world we live in. The recording offers a nice blend of mirth, meaning and melody. It would fit well in your kitchen.


CD review by Tony Smith

TN158 – Oct 23

This 2023 album by Fred Smith means that the year has been prolific for this Canberra singer-songwriter.

As with all of Smith’s songs, the tunes are driven by the lyrics, and the words to these songs are among the best in his extensive repertoire.

It might seem like a cliché to describe Smith as primarily a poet, but his words stand well alone.

Smith gets very professional vocal and instrumental support on various tracks from Fiete Geier (who also co-produced the album), Carl Pannuzzo, Mitch Preston, Matt Nightingale, Jen Lush, Mal Webb, Kylie Morrigan, Liz Frencham and Stephen Taberner.

Mastering was by Kimmo Vennonen.

Mostly, the accompaniments blend nicely with Smith’s voice, but perhaps the most memorable instrumental solo is some electric guitar on a bonus track.

As the lyrics are so important, it is good that the sleeve notes include the words of the eleven songs that comprise ‘Look’.

There are three ‘bonus tracks’, whatever that means, but lyrics are not supplied for ‘Rio Grande’ or ‘Long Run Wilmington Joe’ while ‘Come and Say Goodnight Reprise’ is a pleasant guitar solo.

‘Long Long Way’ is a personal introduction.

“My name is Freddie. You can call me Fred.

“I pick this guitar, try to make a little bread” but “I’ve got a long long way to go”.

‘She is My Song’, ‘Strange How’, ‘For Myself’ and ‘Corners of My Mind’ are also personal reflections.

In the same philosophical vein, ‘Time Flies’ reminds us that no matter the indignities ageing brings, it surely beats the alternative.

‘Me and Dan and the Sailor Man’ is a tale of adventure told in that busy, almost hurried style Fred has developed for such recitations.

The lyrics seem to be a cross between a mysterious Dylanesque analogy for something arcane and a tale of youthful adventure.

‘Hel’’ and ‘Lenny’ tell of Smith’s personal reactions to the works of Australian author, Helen Garner, and Canadian songwriter, Leonard Cohen.

Both songs express Smith’s admiration.

He lists the titles of some of Garner’s prolific output and refers to her as ‘belle of the Bellarine’ (peninsula, Victoria), then promotes her to Queen.

In a style suited to Cohen, Smith notes that he ‘looked into the future, noticed it was looking grim, fixed our flesh wound with a suture, for our souls he wrote a hymn, got us singing “hallelujah” though we know our odds are slim’.

‘Sweet Ever After’ is in memory of singer and song collector, John Thompson.

Smith positions ‘Crisis’ between these words of praise.

The chorus ‘It’s a crisis’ (thrice) confirms the ways in which the world and its peoples are under stress including: ‘Icecaps are all melting and the seas are getting hot/ dammit if this planet ain’t the only one we got/ it’s in crisis’.

The front of the album has a photo of Smith in rather serious, even sombre mood, while the back has him smiling happily.

It could be that the latter portrait shows the relief at having completed another fine album.

Anyway, Fred Smith has put these songs out there now, and ‘Look’ is indeed an accomplishment and worthy addition to his growing repertoire.

The album certainly deserves a look and a listen.

Additional information

Weight .190 kg
Dimensions 21 × 15 × 1.0 cm

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