Sunshone Still
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Sunshone Still

Columbia, South Carolina, United States | SELF

Columbia, South Carolina, United States | SELF
Band Americana Alternative


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Smith let his narrative and conceptual chops loose"

Smith let his narrative and conceptual chops loose on 2007’s Ten Cent American Novels...

- PASTE MAGAZINE - Paste Magazine


Indeed, Smith addresses his brother’s suicide directly. But he mostly saves his eulogizing for the album’s back half, where “Old Snakes” smolders and flashes with detailed memories and dramatic musical shifts reflecting the mix of sadness and anger grief fuels; and where “Boy Superman” uses Sunshone Still’s sepia-tinged folk aesthetic as a vehicle for melancholic celebration of a life that was.

But ThewaytheworldDies isn’t always so forthright with its inspiration. Opener “Someone to Call Home” is a Calexico-worthy desert ballad, narrating the meeting of two lovers. Smith’s narrator though suggests he’s more than a little preoccupied with his own troubles, watching these two dancing. “When your heart breaks/ Like a wishbone/ You just somewhere/ To call home,” he sings in a hushed rasp.

And even as the album highlights Sunshone Still’s dusky folk rock, it expands the band’s sonic palette without reservation. “Jesus From A Chain” finds Smith dabbling in more turbulent rock waters than he typically favors, too. Slow piano plinks and Smith’s unhurried whisper threaten to drown beneath guitar lines shuddering through a thick crackle of distortion, and cinematic slashes of strings, creating a moody and exciting vision of a more upbeat Sunshone Still. And that vision is even more fully realized on the charged country-rock of “I Would Kill.”

- PASTE MAGAZINE, March 2012 - Paste Magazine

"Take note: 10 rising Charlotte bands you should know"

"...Calexico’s cinematic twang, Sparklehorse’s rich textures, Howe Gelb’s off-kilter waltzes, Sebadoh’s lo-fi grit, and Mark Kozelek’s whispery laments traipse through the album, but Smith is the master of his influences..." - Charlotte ViewPoint, Bryan Reed

"...Harrowing, heartbreaking fare, but rendered beautifully..."

Chris Smith’s last record was a tribute to the life and death of Kit Carson based on Hampton Sides’ marvelous biography; this one is based on the life and death of Smith’s own brother, who committed suicide in 2010. It’s harrowing, heartbreaking fare, but rendered beautifully in many of the same fitting dusky noir and Appalachian shades, with Rodney Lanier’s pedal steel and Jason Hausman’s orchestral arrangements providing essential moving parts to the whole. Smith’s remembrances flicker past like Super 8 home movies, and several songs erupt in transcendent conflagrations to underscore the loss and confusion left in suicide’s wake. It’s a compassionate testament that strives for an understanding that may not exist, but in the yearning for it we are privileged to be allowed in to listen, and to empathize. (JS) - Shuffle Magazine

"ThewaytheworldDies is easily Sunshone Still's finest record to date."

Misfortunes, wrote Ovid, often sharpen the genius. And
ThewaytheworldDies is easily Sunshone Still’s finest record to date. - Free Times

"Impressive Debut"

Chris Smith (aka Sunshone Still) has a sound that reflects the work of artists such as Tom Waits, Elliott Smith, and Nick Drake. Dead Letters is his impressive debut, which he wrote, recorded and produced over the last three years; it's a musical landscape painted in the hushed tones of twilight. Acoustic guitars lead the way, occasionally joined by the lonesome and cutting sound of a harmonica or any number of acoustic instruments lazily meandering through the songs. The sparse instrumentation and subdued production emphasize Smith's plaintive baritone and the small town pictures he paints. The summer-camp recollection "Fireflies" is a midtempo highlight, while the heartrending "Smoke Rings" is a picture of post-relationship depression. - No Depression

"Staggering Genius"

...[Ten Cent American] Novels is yet another heartbreaking work of staggering genius from Smith, equal parts sweeping documentary and smart, cinematic songscape..." - Free Times, Columbia, SC


“Ten Cent American Novels,” the audacious new album by songwriter Chris Smith, who records as Sunshone Still, is ingenious in its delivery and substance.

Inspired by Hampton Sides, a journalist and nonfiction author who wrote “Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West,” Smith has written an embellished oral history of westward expansion.

In Smith’s contemporary version, which is dedicated “to all Native American generations displaced, repressed and eradicated throughout U.S. history,” the West is tamed through imperialistic greed and contempt for human suffering.

Manifest Destiny, the mid-19th century belief that the United States was ordained to expand to the Pacific Ocean, became a scorched-earth policy that stripped land from the indigenous.

American frontiersmen, some wielding political clout like Kit Carson, a central character in Smith’s Western dissertation, embodied the movement to fell tribes and stake claims on what belonged to others.

Like a novel, Smith’s alluring and courageous attempt at storytelling is separated by chapters and books, which are introduced with prologues.

Smith’s thrusting whisper in the narrative arch is surrounded ornately by an orchestral expanse. Lyrically, Smith employs delicate liberties with factual, historical elements, like novelist Joyce Carol Oates, whose history is engulfed by imagination.

To fully understand and engage the impeccable details, the album must be heard to completion. But like Smith’s previous record, 2005’s “Dead Letters,” there are some stunning songs that require replay.

“A Pallet of Buffalo Robes (Widower’s Blues)” has Smith as Carson mourning the death of his Arapaho wife, Singing Grass. In a solid stanza, accompanied by dangling guitar notes and what sounds like an organ, Smith elicits anguish, and, like the rest of the album, a sense of history.

“Today, they hoisted you high/In a tree they set you afire/Prairie birds and flames consumed/Your body/But left me with my widower’s blues.”

Smith’s harrowing harmonica leads the processional at the end of the song.

“Klamath Lake (It Was a Perfect Butchery)” recounts “shooting the sun” and mapping territory in Oregon in ’46 — and the slaying of enemies. “Blood and Thunder” smolders, giving off a scent like freshly charred leaves.

“The Long Walk’s” banjo-and-thunder pulse is inescapable, as is the darkened cello sweep in “Waiting for an Audience with James K. Polk” or the Mexican horn-embraced epilogue “Doctor, Compadre, Adios! (A Pallet of Buffalo Robes).”

Even the CD jacket, which contains a photo of Smith as Carson in a period jacket, honors the musical theme.

It is a bit to digest, especially for those who found history courses boring and useless, and for those who like bland singer/songwriters who don’t use metaphors.

It might be titled “Ten Cent Novels,” but this story — a creation as boundless as venturing into the West once was — is priceless. - The State

"'Dead Letters' Well Received at Telluride"

2005 Honorable Mention at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s Troubador Competition - Telluride Bluegrass Festival

"Alt-Country Gem"

Dead Letters opens with a crackle of static and ghostly out-of-range radio signals, but that’s not the only reason Sunshone Still’s Dead Letters has the feel of a meandering road trip with an old friend. Each song on this debut alt-country gem is similar to enjoying a personal conversation rich with shared memories and revelations, the kind of storytelling native to two-lane state highways or the dark corner booth at a smoky dive bar along the way. Chris Smith searches the dusty Tennessee and Carolina roads of his past for meaning and invites listeners to ride shotgun.

Comparisons to Nick Drake, Iron and Wine, or the best moments of Jacob Dylan’s vocals are apt descriptions but don’t fully capture the texture of Smith’s dreamy, knowing baritone. Dead Letters shifts fluidly between the world-weariness of “Land of Tar and Cotton” and the wistfulness of “All Roads” without becoming self-indulgent or overly sentimental. Whether revisiting the childhood anxiety of summer camp in “Fireflies” or imagining shared campfire conversation and s’mores with Christ in “I Found Jesus,” Smith populates his songs with vivid portraits, careful observations, and lived-through emotions. Smith has been to hell and back, so to speak, and sings his tales with authenticity and grace. The acoustic guitar and harmonica complement Smith’s voice and further emphasize the album’s rootsy, intimate feel.

The quiet power of Dead Letters lies in its consistent evocation of various moods and places, with the moods and places themselves ranging from childhood joy and fear to adult heartbreak and longing, from California to Carolina. Smith wrote and recorded the album over three years, relying on his own portable 8-track digital recorder for all of the original recording. Dead Letters, while not exactly the road less traveled, is nonetheless a satisfying and edifying side road off the increasingly packed alt-country expressway. After all, the journey is the destination. (Catfish Records) - Southeast Performer Magazine

"Best of Columbia"

Voted Runner-Up for Best CD by a Local Artist in the 2005 Best of Columbia poll - Free Times

"Saluting the Best..."

Listed among the top local releases of 2005:

Chris Smith writes desperate songs about longing for hope that have a knack at pulling at listeners' pain while letting them know that everything isn't so bad. Unlike a lot of this town's singer/songwriters, Sunshone Still has sincere depth. - The State

"Sunshone Still Releases a Labor of Love"

Chris Smith lifted his musical nom de plume from the Nick Drake song "Place to Be" and doesn't put it to waste on his charming alt-country debut Dead Letters, which is equal parts Nashville, Austin and Carolina. Smith's songs are dusty anthems born in bedrooms, on barstools or behind the wheel and are comparable to the work of Damien Jurado, Iron & Wine, Richard Buckner or Damien Rice. - Free-Times

"Still, the Sun Shone Bright"

Sunshone Still is a band.

This is true, but for the sake of accuracy, Sunshone Still is the life of Chris Smith.

Listening to Smith sing, you know the guy has loved. You know he's felt pain. You know that he's confronting something inside of him.

You know he is singing the truth.

Sunshone Still's songs are heavy with substance, drifting through minutes of sometimes sobering storytelling. The music is lathered with imagination. The instruments wander as the vocals suggest eyes staring straight ahead into darkness. Or is that hope?

Sad, sad songs. If your heart is already broken, it will be broken again. - The State

"Fascinating, Cinematic"

"The sophomore disc from South Carolina musician Chris Smith (a.k.a. Sunshone Still) may be a bit high-concept, but it's also a fascinating, cinematic musical exercise inspired by the true story of Kit Carson and the Manifest Destiny years of the United States in the late 1800s. The tale is laid out in three "Book" sections, which detail Carson's relationship with his Native American bride, his role in the Indian wars, and the treatment of the defeated tribes..."

- No Depression, January/February 2008 Issue, Kevin Oliver - No Depression


ThewaytheworldDies - released February 2012
Ten Cent American Novels - released October 2007
Dead Letters - released July 2005

The United State of Americana - October 2005

Land of Tar and Cotton (out of print) - 2002



"And even as the album highlights Sunshone Still’s dusky folk rock, it expands the band’s sonic palette without reservation." - PASTE MAGAZINE

The third release [2/7/2012 on Potato Eater Records] from Sunshone Still, titled ThewaytheworldDies, chronologically recounts pivotal events and people before and after a family tragedy. From new love (“Someone to Call Home”) to the final desperate act revealed in the title track. The album then turns to the after effects of loss in songs like “Old Snakes” and “Boy Superman”. In a hopeful conclusion, Smith lets go in “Can’t Hold On to a Ghost” and makes a promise to his newborn son in “Was & Will Be” (a duet with Danielle

Sunshone Still is equal parts band and musical nom de plume for Chris Smith, a Nashville native now living in Columbia, SC. Since the 2005 debut release of Dead Letters, Smith was featured on the NPR program, All Songs Considered: Open Mic, and placed songs on the PBS series, Roadtrip Nation. Performing Songwriter listed Dead Letters as an Editor’s DIY Pick, and No Depression called it, “impressive” and “a musical landscape painted in the hushed tones of twilight”.

Smith’s 2007 sophomore album, Ten Cent American Novels, was inspired by Hampton Sides’ non-fiction book, Blood and Thunder. Smith researched, wrote and produced 17 songs and folded them into an ambitious sound to tell the interwoven story of Kit Carson, the Navajo Indians, and Manifest Destiny. No Depression called Novels “a fascinating, cinematic musical exercise…”

Since 2009, the band has solidified around the talents of Smith (guitar/vocal), Rodney Lanier and Jason Hausman (multi-instrumentalists), Stowe Barber (drums), and Flavio Mangione (bass). Sadly, Lanier passed away in December 2011, two months before the release of ThewaytheworldDies, after a battle with cancer. Dan Hood has graciously returned to the band to fill in for the much missed and beloved "Hot Rod".

When not playing music, Chris owns and operates several restaurants, watches the Daily Show, and drives his kids to tee ball games. His siblings were all given meaningful, odd names. He was not so lucky. Hence, Sunshone Still.

*"And I was green, greener than the hill
Where flowers grew and the sun shone still
Now I'm darker than the deepest sea
Just hand me down, give me a place to be"
-from Nick Drake's Place to Be