Fred Smith - Domestic cover


Whenever We Make Art
Ding Dang Dong
Turn Around
Open Country
Four Strong Hands
Brand New Page
There Go I
Staying Up Late
Heart Work
Certain Things
Beautiful Girl (live)


4.5/5 Stars

Fred Smith is simply the best folk/country musician working in this country in 2020. Beyond writing some of the finest songs about Australians at war (Dust of Uruzgan), he's created a repertoire that is wry, literate, witty, powerfully emotional and insightful. On this remarkable album – with his palette impressively broad in both lyrical and musical stylings – he ranges through country, folk and faux-cabaret. He includes suitably sharp and savage commentary on our recent political history (Musical Chairs) where, hilariously, he rhymes “prime ministerial” with “venereal”; a haunting duet with Liz Frencham, Four Strong Hands, about the hardship of rural life during drought where men are suicidal and women are caring and rock-solid in their love; and a quasi-rockabilly backing for an amusing satire on modern life in Sydney (Brand New Page). But at the album's heart lies a stunning cycle of deeply personal songs about marriage, babies, love, tolerance, decency and the complexity of modern life (Maryanne, Turn Around, There I Go, Staying Up Late, Beautiful Girl, Certain Things). A sublime study in tenderness and vulnerability.
BRUCE ELDER, Sydney Morning Herald

A singer-songwriter renowned for his travelogue albums (Dust of Uruzgan, Bagarap Empires, Texas), Fred Smith has turned his attention to the domestic frontier with the wry observation and humour that are his trademark.

‘Domestic’ captures 21st Century Australia under pressure from drought to digital overload, bushfires to Bondi. It’s an essentially Australian album not just in its subject matter but in its outlook. “We’re a race of piss takers for better or worse, mostly for better – a scepticism which, I’d like to think, protects us from being duped”.

And a wry humour runs right through the album - there is a streak of comedy even through even it’s most serious songs. Although an overall exuberant album, Domestic does get serious. The aperture narrows in the second half of the record to a more personal suite of what might be called ‘love songs for middle aged folks’.

As Smith approaches his 50th birthday, songs like ‘Heart Work’ and ‘Certain Things’ paint domestic scenes of a couple under pressure - managing aging parents while raising children, overworked and overwhelmed by the demands of life in the digital era - glamourous no, but real enough for many of us.

“It’s been a tough five years managing the decline of my ancient Greek parent in laws mixed with the joy of raising our infant daughter - her indifference to our suffering has got us through!”

“There are times when marriage seems more about endurance than euphoria - we endure a lot together” said Smith.

Smith’s team of regular sidemen have served him well on this recording. Liz Frencham embodies taste on double bass while poli-instrumentalist Carl Pannuzzo serves the songs sublimely on drums, keyboards and backing vocals.

“There’s a trust and understanding that comes from playing hundreds of gigs together that made the experience in the studio quite lovely” said Smith.

The feels on this album vary from Kinks-like Britpop (Whenever We Make Art) to country (Four Strong Hands) to fingerpicking folk (There Go I). Smith has never accepted genre limitations, his only concern being the happy marriage of melody and meaning.

The album cover features Smith in a blue shirt against a pink backdrop. This is his first album in eight years not to contain songs about war. “I’m out of the beige and in to the pink!” Says Smith.

released January 12, 2020

Fred Smith – Acoustic Guitars, Harmonicas.
Liz Frencham – Double Bass; Vocal on Track 5;
Carl Pannuzzo – Drums/percussion; Keyboard, Backing Vocals
Fiete Geier – Electric Guitar on 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 12, 13; Bass 11
Dave O’Neill - Electric Guitar on 6
Mikel Simic and Phil Moriarty – BVs on 13

All tracks mixed by Fiete Geier and Steve Vella
Mastered by Kimmo Vennonen
Most tracks recorded by Steve Vella and Liz Frencham at Dog and Bear Studios, with some overdubs tracked by Fiete Geier at Ebden Studios
Track 1 and 4 rhythm sections recorded at Infidel Studios by Duncan Lowe
Track 12 recorded by Kimmo Vennonen live to the mixing desk at Street Theatre in Canberra.

All songs © Fred Smith All views expressed or implied on this recording are those of the author and not representative of any other person or organisation.