Chris Smither plays a different kind of blues than your average weekend warrior. He was weaned on the Boston folk scene, and his distinctive sound bridges the gap between introspective folk and old-time blues fare.
His current record, "Hundred Dollar Valentine," features all original material and showcases a man of considerable depth both as a songwriter and as an able guitarist who can fingerpick with the best. Rather than writing about traditional blues topics, Smither tends to ask himself questions and let his listener, in turn, make his or her own assumptions.
Smither's catalog goes back to the 1970s, and even with a long period of inactivity starting in the mid-'80s, his music has persevered. His songs have been covered by Bonnie Raitt, Diana Krall, Emmylou Harris and Esther Phillips.
Sunday's show at the Palms Playhouse in Winters will mark his CD release and also be a celebration of sorts of his 68th birthday.
What would you say is Chris Smither's demographic today?
There's a reason they like to have me on NPR. My crowds balance more towards the over-40 and over-50 crowd. I also get a surprising number of 30-year-old fans, and that's maybe 10 percent of my crowd.
Nowadays, a lot of people get turned on to my music by their parents. I always find it very flattering because in my days, that didn't happen. I also don't get a lot of Republicans in my audience (laughs). I was even booked on a jam-band festival by my agent and I went over astonishingly well.
You once said, "I was basically drunk for 12 years, and somehow I managed to climb out of it I don't know why," in reference to your absence from releasing records.
There's not a lot to say about it in the context of my music. I could say I was sick for 12 years, but that wouldn't really be totally honest. In a way, I put it bluntly to get the question out of the way. The bluntness was intentional.
How has the downturn of the record industry affected you?
To tell you the truth, I haven't noticed the downturn at all. I'm doing as well as I ever have.
For somebody like me, who has always counted on live music for my income, it has worked out in my favor. For some performers who play out too much, that's not the case. I go to Australia once every three years, and I see the same American artists (who play there more often) drawing way less while I am playing capacity shows.
Will you still be touring and recording in five years?
I could stop right now. I have had many visits to my financial adviser, and she once asked me, "Are you doing this because you want to? Because you certainly don't have to."
What is your favorite Chris Smither record beside, obviously, your latest?
We would have to go way back to my days on Hightone. I would say "Small Revelations" (released in 1997) was a pivotal record for me. My existence as a songwriter was confirmed, and I realized I could take chances. Moreover, people at the label and fans would listen to whatever I put out. It wasn't as commercially successful as "Leave the Light On" (2006), but for me and where I am today, it was surely defining.
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Palms Playhouse, 13 Main St., Winters