The follow up to Smith’s debut worship release, “Honest to God”, A Fool’s Hope exceeds its predecessor in most every imaginable area. Smith’s songwriting is simply superb. Each song is strongly crafted—surprisingly little filler—and is crafted as much for accessibility as for congregational performance considerations. Indeed, it would not be odd to hear some cuts, “Shine for You” and “You Were, You Are”, for example, on mainstream radio, if it weren’t for the overt worship lyrics, of course. Speaking of lyrics, Smith is well acquainted with grief, it seems, if we are to take the first half of the record as a personal journal. Following the path of ecclesiastical worship that is so seldom traveled in CCM circles, Smith writes poetically about the whole of a believer’s experience; trial, temptation and struggle in equal measure with redemption, grace and renewal. “It’s You” features a stunning example of Smith’s prose as he describes God’s omnipresence as beautifully as I have ever heard:
There’s a face in the shimmering mist
And a whispered name where the grass is swaying,
There’s a rhythm and rhyme wherever I go.
There’s a pulse in the pattering rain
And a deeper roar in the ocean’s waving
And it’s a voice that I know.
“Savior” speaks in more direct terms, like the psalmist who realizes his own spiritual bankruptcy without Christ:
Would you believe I’m barely breathing
Since you disappeared?
My soul is far too cold to feel you
Even if you’re here.
I stretch my hands out like a desert
Thirsty for the rain.
I’m cracked and broken, still
You’ve spoken silence to my pain.
Smith manages to speak doctrinal truth with the last few cuts, all married to 6/8 time signatures, and featuring Smith’s own, accomplished violin playing. In fact, the cut “You Were You Are” with its Feist-like gait, features a strummed violin as it’s main rhythm instrument, sounding a bit like a mandolin or gut-stringed guitar. These types of musical flourishes are all over the record (Hymn for the Morning includes a mandolin tuned to an E chord and struck with a Phillips screwdriver) and are a large part of why A Fool’s Hope has such character. A lot of credit goes to producer, Brandon Mains, who allows Smith the latitude to try things that may not be conventional, but add tons of depth and texture to his tunes. Smith is the real engine behind the project, however, and with the lyrical depth and musical breadth shown on A Fool’s Hope, it should be just a matter of time before a ton of large labels sit up and take notice. Shawn McLaughlin, WMM reviewer