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Smooth Hound Smith is a foot stompin’ American roots and rock band founded by Zack Smith (guitars/vocals/foot drums/harmonicas/banjo) and Caitlin Doyle-Smith (vocals/percussion). Established in 2012, and based in East Nashville, TN, they record and perform a varied and unique style of folky, garage-infused rhythm & blues. Using primal foot percussion, complex, fuzzed-out, finger-picked guitar patterns, warbled harmonicas, tasty harmonies and syncopated tambourine, they are able to create something rugged and visceral: a modern interpretation of early blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll music that harkens back to the traditions of hazy front porch folk songs as well as raucous back-alley juke joints.
For a singer-songwriter, there’s no more basic function than getting onstage and getting something personal off your chest. The therapeutic qualities of the experience have seduced countless confessional composers, some of whom make known that they hold unfiltered expression as their highest artistic aim.
Kyshona Armstrong started out enabling others to enjoy the healing properties of songwriting, and keeping her thoughts to herself. When you’re a music therapist to incarcerated and institutionalized adults and school children with emotional behavior disorders, artistic considerations aren’t even on the table.
“I definitely had to accept the fact that when I’m writing with a patient, whatever they want to do is what they want to do,” Armstrong tells the Scene as she nurses a latte in East Nashville. “It’s their song: ‘Even if it might not fit in a form, if that’s what you want to say, say it. We’re not writing a big hit. This is for you.’ ”
When Armstrong worked first in the state mental hospital, then the public school system in Georgia, she found that her co-writers often clung to chant-like, circular song ideas. “They would find this melody they liked and they would stick to it,” she explains. “It was theirs to keep. It wasn’t hard to hold onto.”
Armstrong had focused on oboe at the University of Georgia — that and steel drums, which she played in the college’s Hawaiian-shirt-sporting ensemble, Tropical Breeze. But since neither instrument was all that well suited to coaxing patients into musical self-expression, she got into singing, playing acoustic guitar and songwriting.