Greg Smith – “What This Is” – Single Review
“I don’t know what this is.”
Amen brother, I kinda feel the same way.
On the one hand, there really is an impressive amount of great attributes to be found in both the songwriting & sound of Greg Smith’s latest cut called “What This Is” – and on the other hand, it’s definitely a bit of a perplexing choice as a single when it comes to just about everything else! I’m certainly not hatin’ on this tune by any stretch of the imagination…but I will admit & acknowledge it’s pretty much an anti-single in just about every way I can think of as well. That being said, if the Cowboy Junkies can make an entire career out of a sleepier style like this, who the heck am I to judge Smith?
So…okay…I think once you get past what you might typically expect to find in a single and get into this song on every other level it offers, you’ll find a ton to love and a lot of depth here in the music. Especially the violin on “What This Is” – I’d be willing to bet my word-program would run out of pages if I was to try & describe what an essential part of the song the violin really is to “What This Is” – in many ways, I felt like this song almost couldn’t live without what it brings to the atmosphere here. Vocally, Greg sings this well with a timid approach and his tone is on…I’d say he’s in the right spot for his energy too; it’s a real low-key performance, but it does complement the vibe & questioning thread in the lyrics.
When it comes to the words, I’m of two minds; I think Smith has written a lot of great individual lines, but combined, I’m not so sure about what he’s saying overall, or how authentic it feels as a result. It’s honestly really hard to say…because HE is confused, he ends up kinda leaving US feeling the same, and perhaps a little uneasy in the process, wondering “What This Is” just as much as he seems to be himself. At times, singing “What This Is” almost seems like…well…it seems like there would have had to be some other way to describe how he was feeling, wouldn’t there? So like…I mean…I’d call it lazy if I felt like that was the case, but it’s not – that’s the feeling this whole song produces and the emotions it dives deep into – who knows “What This Is?” Is it love? Is it something else? Just what in the heck is actually going on here, what is Greg gonna do about it, how is it gonna affect him from here on out, and what happens next? I’ve got so many questions and so does this song! Yet we both have so few answers.
And that might be the disconnect for me here.
Like, look…as something to listen to, I have no problemo at all with “What This Is” – I’m more than fine with this dusty & haunting beauty of a tune, it sounds like it was stripped right out of Midnight And The Garden Of Good And Evil – the same very setting where Smith’s music is based out of in Savannah, GA. What I feel like I’m missing…at least on a lyrical-level, is that Greg seems to go from not knowing “What This Is” to knowing “What This Is” with little in the middle to bridge that gap and help us along via some sort of tangible explanation…you get a bit – but is it enough? When the majority of this song is spent somewhat in turmoil & the self-imposed purgatory of questioning love – does Greg spend enough time filling in the blanks of how he goes from feeling at point-A to the conclusion he draws to by point-B? I have a feeling that might be a lot more up for debate than he might think from those listening closely.
So don’t get me wrong…there’s still lots to dig about “What This Is” – it just leaves you with more than a few questions by the end is all…but maybe that’s the intention of its design too, that’s certainly possible. What I think absolutely works here is in the instrumentation and the haunting-but-beautiful atmosphere created by the bass, violin, drums, acoustic guitar, and eventually, the warm-glow of the organ that shows up too – all of these elements work really well & the musicianship really holds this tune together. Lyrically, I think Greg’s likely got a tune that’s written about a very specific time in his life here with “What This Is” – and not an easy one to go through at that…lots of ups/downs in this emotional tale. It might be so internalized in thought that he’s forgotten a bit about taking the rest of us along with him in some of the details he could have provided perhaps…but at the end of the day, still an enticing song here. It’s probably not what you’d expect from a ‘single’ in just about every way when it comes to its low-key energy & slow-moving sound, but it’s still more than worth your time to listen, if only to absorb the immaculate sounds of the music & try to get to the heart of “What This Is” all about, once & for all.
Find out more about Greg Smith at his official website at: https://gregsmith.net