Smilin’ Bobby and the Hidden Charms have released a great album featuring this West Side Chicago guitar legend. Bobby Smith turned 77 years young on Sunday, July 17th. His infectious smile gives us an idea where his nickname came from; his stinging guitar make for an exciting performance! These original and cover tracks showcase what this under appreciated and mostly unrecognized guitar wizard is all about. He writes songs and performs with an attitude that tells us his life is ruled by that continual smile. Warren Lathan joins him on bass, Myron Katz on drums and BK Read plays rhythm guitar.
I had heard of Smilin’ Bobby but had never seen him before this year. I have missed out on an artist who puts on a great show, writes cool songs and who is a great guitar player. He approaches the six strings with restraint and takes his music seriously. He picks out a lead as neatly as anyone, sings with great emotion and just puts on a great show. I am sorry to have missed him all these years and wanted to help get the word out so others can enjoy this fine artist. The tracks do not follow the listed order on the cover (which only lists seven songs). The nine tracks here appear to be a re-release of his album “Big Legged Woman” (minus one track and another looks to be renamed) or updated versions of 9 of that album’s songs..
Bobby creates a great West Side groove as the album begins with a super instrumental cut which is “Bobby’s Strut” which may also be entitled “The Scamp.” A sublime guitar picker, Bobby is smooth and refined in his style, layering his lead over the steady riffs of the rhythm guitar and back line beat. This instrumental shows us the man can play! “I Didn’t Know” has a shuffling boogie beat as Bobby expresses his distress over a woman that does not treat him right. A beautiful and sublime guitar solo in the middle and end of the track really lets us know what we’ve missed- he’s the real deal on this Howlin’ Wolf cut.”Cold, Cold Feeling” is a sultry slower blues by Jessie Mae Robinson that hearkens to the smoky days in crowded clubs on Chicago’s West Side. “You’re The One” picks up the beat a bit as he sings his own song about the woman who stole his heart. He picks out another set of slick solos and tells us about how he gives his woman what she wants, when she wants it and where she wants it. “Big Legged Woman” is a cool cut where he tells us of his woman and why she’s the one she wants. A funky beat and a great story here in this one.
Bobby testifies to us and bemoans about what happens after being out with the boys for an extended period. “Gotta Leave This Woman” is an up tempo original piece that Smith tells us he’s got to get out of this relationship. “Little By Little” is a neat cut; a great shuffle that Bobby sells with vocals and guitar; he tells us how “little by little” and “bit by bit” how he’s getting won over in what appears to be a one way relationship. “You Don’t Love Me” gives us his take on the Willie Cobbs classic; a bouncing beat and shouted lyrics make this a charmer. He finishes up with “Mind Your Own Business” where he tells his woman to leave him alone in no uncertain terms.
Bobby is a great, old school musician who is also a charming man, an entertaining musician and a bubbly and effervescent human being. His attitude is off a much younger man who has life ahead of him; here we have a man happy with whom he is, knows his place in the cosmos and enjoying what he does. Bobby travels the world singing his blues and spreading a personal non-religious Gospel of happiness. God bless him—he is a great person whom I am happy to have made the acquaintance; I hope to keep it going as long as I can!