"Renaissance is humanity in songs. A rebirth touching those feelings which bring us back to our common beliefs. Hope and sorrow, pure joy of music, love both individually and for all. These songs and the great musicianship make Renaissance a true album of renewal. Thanks Valerie Smith for this gift in these times."
- Steve Martin - Radio Programmer, Unreal Bluegrass, Syndicated Radio Program
About the Album
According to DJ Steve Martin (Unreal Bluegrass, Syndicated Radio Program), "Valerie Smith seeks music in life. Renaissance rises from this search with stories of love, separation, celebration, overcoming, and devotion." Renaissance crosses through multiple musical genres while still staying true to the Valerie Smith sound that encompasses an acoustic flair with a touch of bluegrass and all with exceptional musicianship. The album was meticulously crafted and features her long time band Liberty Pike, and esteemed guests including Andy Leftwich, Rob Ickes, Donna Ulisse, Jerry Salley, Rob Ickes and there's even a stirring number featuring Gospel greats The McCrary Sisters. The advance single "I Found"debuted at #5 on the Roots Music Report chart, #7 on the Bluegrass Today Grassicana chart and #8 on the FAI Folk DJ Chart for June 2021.
The album is called Renaissance because in looking at the world and herself, Smith has been reborn. With themes including self-worth and acceptance, and including songs about love, finding love, acceptance, and regret, the project signifies the journey Smith has made in her life with optimism to which others can relate. The album includes upbeat, happy songs that encourage the listener to move to the groove as well as lush ballads with meaningful lyrics and melodies that grab the soul. Two songs were written by Smith, and the remaining selections were carefully chosen from the works of other seasoned writers to best express what she wanted to say.
About Valerie Smith
Originally from Missouri and now based in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, Valerie Smith is an American roots artist and songwriter with a unique style and sound who has rocked the bluegrass world for almost two decades with a string of national and international tours, critically acclaimed recordings, Grammy, IBMA, and Dove Award nominations. When you listen to Smith's unique and expressive voice, you can hear influences from bluegrass, blues, gospel music, and even Broadway show tunes. Her range is expansive and she conveys a fantastic array of emotions. Smith has been touring and recording with her band Liberty Pike for 30 years and she has 18 albums to her credit. She has appeared on various television shows, including Ronnie Reno's, the Bluegrass Underground, Song of the Mountains, PBS, and more
Smith's hit single, "Red Clay Halo,"(Gillian Welch and David Rawlings), climbed the Bluegrass Unlimited, Country Music, and Americana reporting charts, receiving heavy radio airplay for five years. BU included the song in their list of the top 60 songs of the decade. Her 2020 single "From A Distance"(Julie Gold), featuring Claire Lynch and Irene Kelly, hit #1 in July of 2020 and spent an entire year on the Bluegrass Today Grassicana Chart as well as hitting # 2 for 2 months on the Folk Alliance International Folk DJ Chart
In addition to producing Renaissance during the pandemic, Smith has also written and recorded Maggie's Journal, a Bluegrass-Folk opera based on her great-grandmother's diary (release to be announced). In addition to many upcoming tour dates, Valerie continues to create music released by her company, Bell Buckle Records. Bell Buckle Records, Media, and Radio houses a variety of talented artists, radio shows, and creates video productions.
Renaissance Track Descriptions
All songs FCC Friendly
1. I'm Fine Bein' Me (2:47) (Valerie Smith) Up-tempo / Bluegrass and Folk. ISRC: TCAFQ2109586
This song represents reaching a place in your life where recognition of self-worth and acceptance of life around you finally come to pass. The music industry can be challenging, and it is easy to lose yourself and your grasp on what is essential in life. As a mother, I have always felt that it is important for my daughter to see demonstrations of self-love and confidence.
2. Heartbreak Hill (2:49) (Gary Scruggs & Tony Arata) Up-tempo / Rockabilly. ISRC: TCAFQ2109590
I love singing and moving to "Heartbreak Hill"; it has the nostalgic feel of Johnny Cash's rockabilly days. Dave Roe played bass for Johnny Cash and he does on this cut for me as well. This one is just fun to sing and to move with - it's a toe-tapper for sure.
3. On That Train (3:44) (Jude Johnstone) Slow, Smooth Ballad / Folk. ISRC: TCAFQ2109597
Written by one of Johnny Cash's favorite songwriters, Jude Johnstone, the lyrics cleverly approach the subject of regret, the wish we would have dared to take a chance for love and life.
4. Dancin' With the Stars (3:40) (David Lauver, Bobby Johnston, Jerry Salley) Swing. ISRC: TCAFQ2109600
You can never beat a laid-back swing tune like "Dancin' with the Stars" which is all about happiness, contentment, and love. Jerry Sally (composer) and Donna Ulisse add their clever harmonies as icing on the cake! This song also allowed me to work with one of my old bandmates, Andy Leftwich (mandolin). It puts a smile on my face!
5. Heart of Sorrow (3:19) (Claire Lynch & Frank Serio) Drivin’ beat / Bluegrass. ISRC: TCAFQ2109602
"Heart of Sorrow" offers up a swampy, soulful bluegrass tempo number for this album. In life we lose and our hearts get broken, which brings us to the blues. It's all just part of the rocky process of being human.
6. The River Whispers (3:00) (Claire Ulanoff and Marissa DiBlassio) Mid-tempo / Folk / Bluegrass. ISRC: TCAFQ2109613
I love walks in nature because when we can't find the answers to our complicated lives nature will often bring us comfort. Rivers have always been a symbol of peace, hope, and love, for many years. While traveling and playing music with the legendary Tom Gray he encouraged me to go river kayaking with him, and it turned out to be a spiritual experience for me during a time of healing.
7. I Found (4:06) (Joshua Keogh) Mid-tempo / Folk / Contemporary Bluegrass. ISRC: TCAFQ2109618
"I Found" is my cover of a popular song by the Indie rock group Amber Run. I fell in love with its clever melody and lyrics which come through strongly in our recorded version. Radio DJ of "Unreal Bluegrass", Steve Martin, says it best: "Valerie Smith possesses one of the more interpretive and sensitive voices in all of music. She feels lyrics deeply and wants the listener to feel with her. 'I Found' is the perfect opportunity for Valerie, with strong backing by Liberty Pike, to reach deeply down and then stretch back out to the audience. Ultimately the song describes life, gliding over unexpected obstacles and finding love where it wasn't supposed to be. The serendipity of joy. Valerie Smith takes you with her, breathing with you as you find smiles and happiness." Thank you, Steve!
8. Big Red (3:20) (Daniel Crabtree) Driving Bluegrass. ISRC: TCAFQ2109619
Written by one of my favorite songwriters, the song describes a historically famous horse race that involved a horse nicknamed "Big Red" (Triple Crown winner Secretariat). The song also represents what sheer focus and determination can do for one facing challenges to achieve goals. There is a lot to be said for starting out slow but coming in strong at the finish line.
9. Do You Know Where Your Heart is Tonight? (3:20) (Jeff Walter) Mid-tempo acoustic Country. ISRC: TCAFQ2109628
A soulful country two-step song that explores how complicated interpersonal and family relationships can be when people travel a lot for their jobs. I have traveled all of my life, and my heart has not always been in the right place, and it is easy to develop a bubble around yourself and lose communication with your loved ones.
10. The Great I Am (4:05) (Feat. The McCrary Sisters) (Mike Lane) Upbeat Gospel. ISRC: TCAFQ2109632
This rousing number was written by Pastor Mike Lane when he was about to give a sermon. I love the soulful sounds and lyrics which celebrate a power more significant than ourselves, the power of faith. The McCrary Sisters sang the background on this track, and they really brought it home for me.
11. Heaven is Holding You (2:59) (Ann Miller) Smooth ballad / folk. ISRC: TCAFQ2109633
My daughter, Josie Smith, graduated from high school this year, and the idea of her moving out of the house to college was a tough pill for me to swallow. I indeed suffer from separation anxiety; she is the result of the best thing I ever did in my life ... being a mother. I think we all wish safety, hope, and love, for all of our children.
12. A Dollar Looked Mighty Good (3:47) (Valerie Smith/ Ashley Lewis), Mid-tempo / contemporary bluegrass / folk.
Ashley Lewis and I wrote this song based on an excerpt from my great grandmother Maggie Brooks' journal which I found in an old trunk about 7 years ago. She had finally escaped from a violent marriage and learned how to earn her own money by doing various jobs. Maggie ended up being a very successful businesswoman in Plattsburg, MO., owning and operating a general store and a hotel. She was pretty proud to earn her own dollars and rise above her many early life challenges.
13. Enter In (2:33) (Claire Lynch and Irene Kelley) Upbeat bluegrass Gospel. ISRC: TCAFQ2109637
I love the simplicity and traditional feel of the lyrics and melody of "Enter In." The song is a true sing-along, and being a former music teacher I love to encourage people to join in the fun! I am a fan of the music these two fine women make and was tickled to pull this one out of their music vault.
14. Unchained (4:18) (Jude Johnstone) Slow, acoustic blues. ISRC: TCAFQ2109640
"Unchained" is another powerfully written song written by Jude Johnstone. It was actually one of the final songs that Johnny Cash released and I'm proud to cover it. During the pandemic, emotions were high and turbulent, and I reflected upon many things. This song is about being truthful with yourself and trying to become a better, stronger person. Once we can see ourselves clearly, we can become unchained from the perceptions that hold us back from loving relationships with ourselves and others.
Ann McCrary,Tambourine 10 | Andy Leftwich, Mandolin: 1,2,4,5,6,8,10,12 & Fiddle: 10 | Bob Minner, Guitar, 1-9,11,13, 14 | Cody Kilby, Guitar: 12 | Dave Roe, Bass: 2,3,6,10,11,14 | Donna Ulisse and Jerry Salley, Harmony Vocals: 4 | Evan Winsor, Bass: 12 | Joe Zauner, Banjo: 1,7,8,9,13 | Kevin McKendree, Synth Strings: 3,14 & Strings: 6 | Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes, Mandolin: 1,2,7,9,13 & Harmony Vocals: 1,2,5,6,7,8,9,12,13 | Rob Ickes, Resophonic Guitar: 14 | Sammy Shelor, Banjo: 5 | Stephen Burwell, Fiddle: 2,4,5,8,9,12,14 | Tanya Dennis, Harmony Vocals: 3,14 | The McCrary Sisters (Ann, Alfreda, Regina) Harmonies: Track 10 | Tim Carter, Banjo: 10,12 | Tim Lorsch, Strings: 3,11 | Tom Gray, Bass: 1,4,5,7,8,9,13 | Wally Hughes, Resophonic Guitar 2,6,9,13 & Fiddle: 1,7,13 & Harmony Vocals: 1,2,5,6,7,8,9,12,13