Although British folk guitarist John Smith bears comparison to his alternative folk contemporaries like Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Fionn Regan, José González, and Cara Dillon, the Devon-born, Liverpool-based prodigy has connections to an older generation of inventive and progressive folk guitarists as well, having played alongside John Martyn, John Renbourn, and Martin Simpson. An inventive guitarist who not only explores unusual tunings à la Davy Graham but often plays his acoustic instrument in entirely unconventional ways (detuning strings in the middle of a chord, laying it upright in his lap and hammering on the strings like a dulcimer, etc.), Smith occasionally sounds like an otherworldly cross between Tim Buckley (whose "Song to the Siren" is a standard part of Smith's set) and the East Texas avant primitive Jandek, although his occasional full-band performances approach the chamber folk delicacy of Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left. Smith debuted with the self-released live set Live at the Roundhouse, available on both CD and DVD, before the release of his first studio album, The Fox and the Monk, in 2006.
A couple of non-album singles followed, 2007's "The Bird and the Worm" and "If I Prove False", a 2008 collaboration with Dillon, before Smith contributed guitar to a couple of tracks on her acclaimed 2009 LP, Hill of Thieves. Smith's own Map or Direction appeared later that year, a whole album of songs recorded whilst traveling through the southern states of the US, and 2011 brought Eavesdropping, an album of cover versions including material originally performed by acts as diverse as Elton John, Tuung and Terence Trent D'Arby. After a relatively quiet 2012, Great Lakes was issued the following March, an album primarily recorded in a converted chapel in north-west Wales. ~ Stewart Mason & James Wilkinson, Rovi