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In life you’ll find there are always those who wander from place to place. They have no roots, or only shallow ones perhaps, but always seem to find an open door wherever they go.

They may never amount to much, after all it’s hard to find stability, financial or otherwise, when you’re always on the move, but they seem happy enough just the same.

In music this was a common trait, as the profession itself forced you to travel constantly even in the best of circumstances. Maybe it was his smile that made record companies feel at ease – or maybe it was his ability to deliver consistently solid, if unspectacular, performances at each stop – but Smilin’ Smokey Lynn was somebody who probably would never be turned away when he showed up on somebody’s doorstep.


I Run All Day
This is just the second stop of Smilin’ Smokey Lynn’s career, the first being Specialty Records, but even at that initial landing spot he was recording under his own name and guesting on other people’s records, an indication he was viewed less as an artist to build around and more as somebody who could fill a need.

As such he was a good fit at Peacock Records out of Houston who’ve been in business only a year and have had some success along the way but are still trying to come up with those cornerstone artists who can carry the label and ensure your line is going to be picked up and distributed because nobody wants to miss out on the next release by the one or two stars you have.

No, Lynn was not going to be that guy, even if everything broke right for him, but until they found that kind of artist he was a good way to fill out the roster and make sure that owner Don Robey wasn’t simply shipping out a new Gatemouth Brown single every few weeks, flooding the market just to keep Peacock Records’ name in the front of people’s minds.

Because of that these singles by random artists with just a modicum of name recognition didn’t have to sell a lot to be effective tools for stabilizing the company’s standing in the industry. All they needed was just to be acceptable records for their specific market, maybe find a place in a handful of jukeboxes in the region and mostly to give some indication as to what type of music you could expect from them when you saw the red and silver label staring out at you in a rack.

Surely Smokey Lynn knew this too and wasn’t expecting Goin’ Back Home to give him anything for his time and trouble other than another small, fleeting promotional tool for his club gigs around the Gulf Coast region for however long he was in the area.

But like most itinerant travelers I’m sure he couldn’t help but think that if by chance a record like this unexpectedly caught on he might not have to keep searching for a permanent home any longer.

Standin’ On The Back Porch Cryin’
With its bluesy guitar opening the proceedings you’re thrown for a minute thinking this might be a slower down home record not really suited for rock ‘n’ roll. But once Lynn comes barreling in with the horns in tow those fears subside quickly.

Though always a hard-charging vocalist, Lynn’s got good control of his voice which is commanding without resorting to bellowing like so many shouters. He seems relaxed even when the pace accelerates, knowing just how much pressure to apply to make everything come together.

Which is precisely why you wish he had a better song to sing than Goin’ Back Home which is little more than a rough concept about missing his girl that somehow gets extended for nearly three minutes when thirty seconds would’ve conveyed the same message.

With lyrics that are mostly variations on a theme about getting back to her the biggest question it poses – why he left in the first place, which is only vaguely hinted at in the first stanza – goes unanswered.

There are no obstacles he’s encountering en route, be they physical impediments or ethical ones, and so it’s a song devoid of conflict, motivation and even resolution, as by the end he’s no closer to reaching her than he was at the beginning. He might as well be running on a treadmill for all the ground this song covers.

Where I Belong
In spite of the lack of depth here, Lynn sounds really committed to the idea itself, as well as to the song, making up for some of the skimpy details he offers us. His delivery is well judged, he’s got a nice enough rhythm to navigate and adjusts the tempo when the arrangement calls for it.

The best moment comes when he eases off the throttle, not only slowing the pace but also the volume for the bridge, and draws you in before ramping it up down the stretch again. It’s hardly a new trick, or even one that requires much technical skill, but he carries it out with a deft touch that shows he had the basic skills to be a more consistent recording artist if he got the chance.

Of course it’d help if Goin’ Back Home had a more compelling track to bolster the weak storyline, as this is serviceable journeyman rock without anything to stand out enough to recommend more enthusiastically.

The horns that join Lynn are playing a simple riff alongside the piano which flows pretty well and the tenor solo which takes center stage in the instrumental break is pretty good, exhibiting a nice rich gritty tone, but it winds up leading nowhere. Instead of raising the excitement and thus forcing Lynn to match it coming out of the break it merely holds serve, keeping the same basic feel going before fading into the mix as it concludes.

Nothing they do is inappropriate or badly played by any means, it’s all very serviceable, but when that’s also the best you can say about the vocals it means the whole record is almost asking to be overlooked.

Boys, I’m Gone, Gone
If you were to break down the performance qualities of various singers in rock’s first half decade, Smilin’ Smokey Lynn would be somebody who’d get good marks in most categories. Nice enough power, a clear tone, an exuberant delivery and a good rhythmic and melodic sense.

Yet if you threw his records into a pile with others and randomly pulled them out and played them how long would it take you to recognize it was him? Not that he sounds like other singers per say, but he also isn’t so distinctive that you’d pick him out within the first few bars.

In other words he’s good enough to not be out of place even among the heavy hitters in the genre, but he’s got no identifying characteristics to construct an image around. Thus it’s left to the quality of the songs themselves and the compatibility of his sidemen to push him over the top.

Goin’ Back Home is indicative of that problem. It’s generic in every way and when you’re trying to make a name for yourself it doesn’t matter how effectively you carry it out, what you’re left with is still a generic record.

He may stick around Peacock for a little while because they still need to fill out their roster at this point, but when all it amounts to is records like this it’s inevitable that soon he’ll be looking for another home yet again.


(Visit the Artist page of Smilin’ Smokey Lynn for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)