Wednesday, February 1, 2012

corey smith in boston, and some georgia reminiscing

"Carolina" by Corey Smith shuffled, fittingly, on my iPod right after I drove across the South Carolina border on the drive from Georgia back to Amherst, Massachusetts for my junior year of college. It marked the end of the best summer of my life. On Thursday night at his first sold-out show in Boston, Corey opened with "Carolina" and I was right back on that road.

To make a long story (sorta) short, when I was on a road trip home to Seattle two years before, I was told by surfers in the Outer Banks to visit a "swamp hostel" in southeastern Georgia. I did, and ended up living there on staff for a month, hanging laundry, feeding chickens, meeting people, helping paint a mural and enjoying the sticky sweetness of a lazy Georgia summer. I was 19.

living in georgia
Helping paint a mural inside a drum circle; Chickens and guitars on the hostel porch
After just a month I was hooked on Georgia... I still love nearly everything about it. The place I lived and people I knew were unpretentious, laid back, kind and fun. For the next two summers I returned to live on nearby Saint Simons Island, serving coffee, slinging barbecue, pouring beers and living at the beach in between. Along the way I fell in and out of a relationship, made amazing friends and learned how to fit in somewhere new. I first heard Corey Smith play to a small but rowdy crowd at a bar while I sipped a sweaty pint of Sweetwater 420 after a long day of waitressing.

Bartending at the pub (also a coffee shop and BBQ joint); Me and Nikki,  my close friend and partner in crime on SSI
How my days looked in between my barista shift and my bartending shift
Of all the twangy southern alt-rock that passed through the island those summers, his drawled, drinking-infused lyrics stuck with me and became the soundtrack to my time there. The Good Life has soothed a lot of anxious wanderlust and made me excited for any chance we may someday find ourselves living down south.

On Thursday, Mike and I went out for barbecue and then headed to Brighton Music Hall, where the Adam Ezra Group opened with a few original songs, an awesome acoustic cover of Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" and segued into a riotous "Country Road" before Corey stepped on stage to greet his sold-out crowd.

adam ezra and corey smith in boston
corey smith in boston

The show was phenomenal. So much energy radiated from the audience onto Corey, and he bounced it right back to us with a huge smile under his trademark baseball cap.

corey smith in boston
corey smith in boston
corey smith in boston

Mike, who usually doesn't like any country music (except when Kenny Chesney sings specifically about sailboats) remarked right away that Corey "seems like he's fuckin' giddy. He's so pumped by the audience. He loves this shit! Hell yeah... I like this guy." There was something about the energy and appreciation throughout the crowd that made this show really special... because he isn't yet played on mainstream radio up here, it felt like all four hundred people shared a connection through Corey and his long, steady rise as an independent artist.

corey smith in boston

While we were finishing our beers after the show, Corey, his bassist Mike and Adam Ezra came out to chat with some fans. I said a quick hello, thanked him for the show and turned to leave just as Mike mentioned how long it had been since I'd seen Corey in Saint Simons. We chatted about that show and this one for a few minutes before he was informed that a a line of whiskey shots were waiting for him at the bar.

I was so happy to have somewhat awkwardly introduced myself, since Corey was exactly how I expected him to be... surprisingly soft-spoken, friendly and as personal as he comes across in his honest, often heartfelt journal posts. Aside from loving his music, I like that as an artist Corey is constantly revisiting old work, considering his talent and honestly critiquing himself.

Adam hooked Mike up with their new CD and we walked out into the dark, rainy Boston night, but the whole ride home feeling like I could have been back in coastal Georgia (although with a much brighter skyline.) I'm not sure how to share all the tracks I'd like to here but I recommend listening to Carolina, and if you like that, you can stream Broken Record (my new favorite), Dahlonega, Maybe Next Year, Beautiful Things and The Wreckage on his website.


  1. there are a lot - a whole lot - of really, really wonderful things about the south. The South. i tire of reading things derogatory written about it by those who didn't grow up here - and found your words refreshing to my soul this morning. i am a southerner, through and through. when i was your age (well, when i was 23, going on 24) i moved out to seattle, all the way back in 1980. i lasted six months: i missed way too much the sense of tradition, of roots, of being connected to so much of what surrounded me. seattle at that time seemed - well, transitional, with most folks i encountered coming from somewhere else entirely. i love the northwest, don't get me wrong - but i savor the south and could never leave it again, as far as a place to call home. i grew up in alabama, spent lots and lots of time in georgia as well. now, i'm in the mountains of western north carolina. i read with enjoyment your journal entries while you were on your road trip this past late summer/early fall. i'll have to go check out corey's music - i recognize dahlonega as a place i drive past every time i drive back to alabama to visit my family, but didn't realize there was a song named for it.
    thanks for seeing the south as a place where you'd like to one day live. i'd welcome you, anytime. come see my stomping grounds any old time.....

  2. I moved from Connecticut to New Orleans when I was 24. It is such a beautiful, romantic, inspiring city! I love the culture and the warmth of Southern people. I can't wait to go back and make it my home. I live in Los Angeles now because of work and it bugs me when no one looks you in the eye and says good morning as you pass by on the sidewalk!