Reviewer: Tamara Turner, CD Baby
Frank - I love your "FRANK SMITH: Gardens Of Hope" CD so much I'm going to feature it on the FRONT PAGE of CD Baby for a few days.
We're REALLY picky about what goes on the front page.We get about 150 new albums a DAY coming in here now, (about 150,000 total), and yours is one of the best I've ever heard.
Rather than jump into the production, the skill and the technical virtues of this album, it is necessary to first reflect on how deeply this album moves and soothes its listeners. To understand the genuine spirit of this man and the generosity of his musical gift, it is important to first listen, let go and allow the music to shape you, the same way you would sit on a hilltop, looking out at a landscape and let the wind blow through your hair. His guitar inhales and exhales just like this kind of gentle, mountain wind, gathering in instrumental color with violin, English Horn, cello, piano, percussion, bass and flugel horn. Even before understanding this man more deeply through the nature of his songs and the stories which inspire them, the distilled simplicity and beauty comes through on a somatic level; his writing perfectly captures the magic of meeting a new person who instantly feels like an old friend. Like the opening track on this CD, “Inspired by a True Story,” Frank Smith’s album is founded on personal experience, from family reunions that resonated deeply in his soul for years to brief and fleeting moments with friends and family; sometimes these moments were just a phrase an old buddy used to sum up life’s intrinsic goodness (“It’s All Good”) and at other times, these moments are as simple as the memory of a smile (“Anything for a Smile”). It is this pure, unfiltered approach to songwriting that gives Gardens of Hope such an intimate and familiar feel, right from the beginning. With production by Will Ackerman, founder of Windham Hill Records, the warmth and humility of the music, as well as its intention, are perfectly conveyed. The title track speaks to the last five years of performing at Naples Community Hospital to soothe patients, staff and visiting loved ones; it is only natural that his music has been so successful in bringing hope and instilling peace among those who search. Regardless of the struggle, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual, Smith’s musical voice softens the most resistant, roughened parts of the human condition.
Reviewer: Bill Binkelman, New Age Reporter
Gardens of Hope
Will Ackerman may want to look into changing careers and becoming a professional gambler because he sure can pick ‘em. Here’s yet another artist he’s producing (and playing with) and, yep, here’s another stellar recording. Frank Smith plays acoustic guitar with uncommon grace, delicacy, and subtlety, kinda like Will Ackerman, in fact. He’s accompanied here by such notables as cellist Eugene Friesen, ambient guitar wiz Jeff Pearce, flugelhorn player Jeff Oster (another Ackerman find), fretless bassist Michael Manring and bassist T-Bone Wolk, as well as a few more folks. Frank Smith certainly deserves to be in their company, as Gardens of Hope is one of the best acoustic instrumental albums of 2007.
“Inspired by a True Story” starts things off in a quiet introspective mood that sets the tone for the rest of the album (there are moments of energy on the CD, but overall this is a “quiet” recording). Joined by Jill Haley on English horn and Wolk on bass, this track will evoke comparisons to Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumbel (meant as a huge compliment, obviously). The music flows with the same beauty and melodic lyricism as the Pacific Northwest duo’s best work. “Chasing the Shade,” on which Smith is joined solely by guitarist Ackerman, combines a light-hearted mood with a slow-paced tempo, both artists amply displaying their virtuosity on the guitar. Despite its title, “Gardens of Hope” is a somber affair with four artists accompanying Smith: Manring, Dana Cunningham on piano, Noah Wilding on wordless vocals, and Derrick Jordan on percussion. Plaintive and reflective, the song also features two rhythmic interludes, however, so as to not disturb the mood, Jordan plays his snares with brushes, lightly yet emphatically, so that the sensation of rhythm emerges but doesn’t overpower the more delicate aspects of the tune. Wonderful and imaginative stuff, that!
While “Anything for a Smile” livens things up, Ackerman’s skillful production allows this sprightly song to remain consistent with the rest of the album. Steve Schuch’s violin gently floats and weaves amidst Smith’s guitar and Jordan’s Spanish-inflected percussion (although the music itself carries no overt Spanish influence). “Bella Vita” (“Beautiful Life” in Italian) opens in a subdued vein (reminding me, to be truthful, of The Kronos Quartet’s amazing performance for the soundtrack to The Fountain), but picks up steam and infuses passion and power via Friesen’s cello and Jordan’s percussion. “Out of My Hands” features Pearce’s ambient guitar textures (easily recognizable to his fans if they listen carefully). As one might deduce, the song is subtle and soft (Manring also plays on the track and adds just the right touch).
There are four more tracks on the CD but I’m running out of glowing adjectives to describe how wonderfulGardens of Hope is, so I’ll let you discover those last four on your own. Frequent readers of my reviews may be tired of my next comment, but I have to write it anyway. Gardens of Hope is the perfect soundtrack for country highway drives in autumn. The subdued nature of the music, the lack of over-the-top histrionics, the beautiful amber-tinted melodies and overall sensation of gentle movement are perfectly suited for traveling amidst falling red and gold leaves, grey skies with a hint of rain, and small towns adorned with pumpkin stands and Halloween decorations on front porches. However, you can also content yourself with playing this magnificent recording while just idling away the hours in your sunroom or maybe in front of the fire, reading. The main thing, though, is to get your hands on Gardens of Hope and start enjoying it right away. I can’t recommend it highly enough for fans of acoustic instrumental music….and, uh, Will, can you tell me who’s going to win the Super Bowl next year?
"AWalk In the Garden" review by John Iverson of CKUW Radio
This is yet another wonderful album created at Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studio inVermont. I can’t say enough about Will’s ability to bring out the best in the artists that he produces. With Gardens of Hope, he has assisted guitarist Frank Smith in creating a musical masterpiece that is both relaxing and uplifting.
The title track is a beautiful piece that includes haunting vocals by Noah Wilding, who appears on a couple of other selections as well. “Anything for a Smile” features some moving violin work by Steve Schuch, and “Soothe” is true to its name with some well-crafted work by Frank and superb playing by violinist Steve Schuch and fretless bass player Michael Manring. A couple of selections, “Bella Vita” and “Porch with a View”, feature the soulful cello playing of Eugene Friesen. English horn player Jill Haley adds a nice touch to “Inspired by a True Story” and “Porch with a View”, and the album concludes with the guitar duo of Frank Smith and Will Ackerman accompanied by the distant sounding flugel horn of Jeff Oster, reminiscent of the amazing Mark Isham.
This album is a collection of diverse guitar pieces, skillfully crafted by Frank Smith along with a handful of supporting musicians who have appeared on many of the other albums produced at Imaginary Road.
Frank Smith is a talented and accomplished musician who plays from his heart, and he is also a skilful composer who writes well-crafted songs. Will Ackerman’s influence on him is obvious, but nonetheless he has shaped his own unique style and sound. A definite must have for the fan of the acoustic guitar.
RJ Lanning’s Top 10 Recordings of 2007 New Review
“Gardens of Hope”- Artist: Frank Smith, Label: Open Tune Music
Guitarist Frank Smith is anachronism for me. He takes me back to the time when the genre was young and the Will Ackerman’s and the Alex De Grassi’s of the world were honing their skills and building a new genre. Smith’s album is somewhat of a culmination of that time and a friendly reminder of where it all came from and perhaps where it is going. His album features terrific guitar and light contemporary ensemble pieces that are soothing and inspirational. Frank plucks emotion and faith from his strings and the sound is unique. My favorite track was called Out of My Hands, a song in which the writer or the listener gives in to the strength of his faith and surrenders to the fate.
Full Review by RJ Lannan, New Age Reporter
Frank Smith is plainly a guitarist's guitarist. He has melody. He has composition and he has style. He planted the seeds for Gardens of Hope long ago, but nothing happen overnight, you know. You must nurture and provide care. You must add patience and love. Finally, it comes to fruition. I have to admit that the overall feel of the contemporary guitar and ensemble album is, to me, something anachronistic.
Gardens of Hope has the sound and feel that made Windham Hills and Narada incredibly famous in the early eighties. That is not a bad thing and it is hardly ironic. Involved in the recording is legendary guitaristWill Ackerman as producer and side man, Michael Manring on fretless bass, T-Bone Wolk on bass,Jeff Pearce on ambient guitar, Jeff Oster on flugelhorn and Eugene Friesen on cello. There are more performers that will be mentioned later. They are a who's who of talents in the contemporary music industry. Smith was destined for success from the very first note.
Three instruments sound like an orchestra on the opening tune Inspired by a True Story.Jill Haleyplays a haunting accompaniment on English horn to Smith's sensitive guitar lead and T-bone's subtle bass. Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes just sitting on the balcony and taking advantage of the quiet time is all you need.
Chasing the Shade is a modest celebration of discovery. It is placid tune guaranteed to ease away the cares of the day. Just two guitars in parallel playing sweetly that allow you write your own signature on the day whether it is on a scrap of paper with bold, blue pen or in the sky with white, gossamer ink.
The title tune Gardens of Hope represents a powerful, living breathing entity. It offers the miraculous connection of music so important to wellness. The melody cast hopeful glances on sun-warmed faces and the assurance of revitalization where it can be had. Smith uses his music as blessed therapy for those that must take the promising infusion of chemicals and radiation at a Florida hospital. There is not a more worthy use for the healing properties of music.
For some, unequivocal surrender is a demonstration of faith. It is not like falling backward and hoping someone you trust might catch you. This ascends to a much higher level. This more like jumping off a metaphysical cliff and knowing that you will not fall. It is not called a leap of faith for nothing. Frank has made the leap and lands safely within his tune Out of My Hands. The tune is simple, beautiful and uncomplicated. Just like faith. Pearce and Manring appear peripherally and their presence is noteworthy.
Everyone encounters one at least once in his or her life, a crossroad. For some it is a time of confusion. A dullness of the mind and spirit that can lead to a place of unknowing. You can sit by the side of the road and cry or you can take a step. And then another, and another. No matter what you believe, something will change. Without change, there is no victory. Frank's finale, Crossroadsis an expression of change and the results is can produce. It is absolutely inspirational.
Frank Smith's music is one of the reasons I love this genre. His production defines the genre. I cannot believe that just a short time ago Frank was doing open mikes and probably bar mitzvahs. I do know now that his music is a restorative tonic for the body and the spirit. His warm, unpretentious style and his knack for combining sympathetic instrumentation is remarkable. I am going to keep listening to this one for a long, long time.Rating: Excellent
Victory Music Reviewby Heidi Fosner
FRANK SMITH: “GARDENS OF HOPE” “Open Tune Music”
Recorded at Imaginary Roads Studios
Available through www.justlovemusic.com , www.cdbaby.com & www.Amazon.com
Frank Smith use to be a regular at Victory Open Mics, but he’s left his amateur status far behind as is evidenced in his third CD Gardens of Hope, a very polished and professional sounding collection of Smith’s original compositions. This is partly due to the help of Grammy award winner Will Ackerman, who producedGarden of Hope, and Grammy award winner Corin Nelsen who mastered and engineered the CD. The lovely and calming songs on Gardens of Hope are beautifully played and arranged with Frank Smith on guitar backed up by a fretless bass, fretted bass, upright bass, flugel horn, Chapman stick, vocals, acoustic guitar, cello, English horn, piano and percussion. The addition of these instruments separates Frank’s new CD from his first two: Assemblance of Rings and I’m Coming Home, which were on solo guitar.
Smith now makes his home in Naples, Florida where he plays to sold out venues across southwest Florida. He is a performing music therapist and plays daily at Naples Community Hospital for patients receiving chemotherapy or infusion antibiotics. His CD’s are sold worldwide and his music has been used on radio and television sound tracks. Gardens of Hopeis a beautiful CD full of soothing and expertly played songs.