With his roots firmly planted in the Appalachian soil of East Tennessee, Rev. J. Mikhael Smith and the Brimstone Miracle bring us a slice of storytelling Americana with their new EP Dogwood Winter. A project of old-soul-songwriter Josh Smith, the album embraces troubled, sepia-toned themes, straight from the heart of the American Bible Belt experience.
Starting with the album’s first single, “10:18,” we’re quickly drawn in by the lively banjo and toe-tapping rhythm, as train wreck history comes alive through Smith’s vivid lyricism.
No one has lived in Appalachia without feeling the wrath and disenfranchisement of dogmatic brimstone, which is artfully challenged in “Scoundrels and Sinners.” The song’s heart is its drumbeat; swells of fiddle its spirit.
Later, Smith’s heartfelt delivery on the album’s title track pulls the listener into the story, as frantic fiddle instills emotional urgency, and near-whispered harmonies add a ghostly feel to the tragic tale.
While Dogwood Winter looks to the past for its inspiration, the lyrical wordsmithing connects the songs to universal passions, perhaps highlighted the best on “Certain Expectations.” “And my daddy always taught me man would get what he deserves/well, I’m sorry Pa but that ain’t what I’ve observed,” Smith sings as he highlights the struggles of carving out one’s life, the challenges of classism, and the disillusionment of reality versus the dreams sold through ideals. “Times you’ll get what you get, and you’ll just live with it because there’s nothing left to take /dice are loaded, make no mistake.”
Dogwood Winter from Rev. J. Mikhael Smith and the Brimstone Miracle adopts all the elements of a classically crafted Americana album: well-honed storytelling, timeless instrumentalism, and an honest delivery that strikes an instant bond with the listener.
You can check out the full EP Dogwood Winter by Rev. J. Mikhael Smith and the Brimstone Miracle today on Spotify: