CORVALLIS — Brian Smith calls “The Nights Grew Longer and the Rain Poured In” his “tribute to winter in the Pacific Northwest.” And, oh, how it fits that steely palette.
As a buttoned-up, fur-lined wanderer freshly returned from a corner-store walk that felt more like a trek up Annapurna (with our region’s meteorological might spitting icy stilettos down the street), I came home to this most welcome sonic warmth. The 20-track album, available at Happy Trails in Corvallis (take an umbrella), hits like a salve to the heart, a comfort from the outside world as it trembles and sputters in medleys of maelstroms.
“Nights” is the very definition of a solo undertaking. The project took roughly a year to construct, in part because Smith — the founder of the local BS (Music) Fest (held in more agreeable seasons), as well as a ceaseless writing/touring entity — is behind every note, from performing to recording to mastering.
In other words, when he announces, “I played banjo and began to sing” on “Devil’s Punchbowl,” he’s enveloping himself within himself. Those are his fingers striking every string, his harmonies supporting his leads, his rhythms keeping time with his overall push. The structures — particularly on “Brother’s Keeper” and “A Million Other People” — are amazingly intricate layers of multiple instruments and voice. Smith toils in each and every corner, creating and shaping to his own satisfaction.
This care has resulted in an abundance of pleasures. The frosty-sparse “Somewhere Elsewhere, Somewhere Somewhere,” with its breathy narration, would sound perfectly at home in one of the post-psychedelic chambers of Pink Floyd’s “Ummagumma.”
But there’s a delightful pop mischief at work, a refreshing earnestness as well. Devotion eternal is proclaimed in the back-porch strum of “100%,” and “Little Secrets (Love in Love)” follows a jaunty gait into the fetching depths of a simpatico sweet and pure. Hope builds in the miles logged on “Circles,” a circuitous road to and from a beloved. “I’m traveling in circles just to get to you,” Smith sings, reeling off a succession of cities and states that won’t stand long in his path. (Haven’t we all gone round and round in this regard, even without a touring schedule?)
Later, on “When I Close My Eyes,” Smith asks, “Is there a great adventure to be sought?” This and other questions are answered in a climactic volley of instrumental and vocal crescendos that gather as one to peak and release.
It’s this sense of adventure that keeps the disc sublime over its hour-and-change wingspan. Smith is a young man with journeys to undertake, unbeholden to the mercies of the heavens. It’s shaping up to be a long, brutal winter, but to spin “The Nights Grew Longer and the Rain Poured In” — despite its title’s dreary threat — is to come in from the cold.
To hear Smith’s music, go to www.myspace.com/themusicofbriansmith.