Bard o’ blues: Songwriter performs tunes of letting go

Rhythm and blues: Greenpoint singer and songwriter Deborah Smith will take the stage at Freddy’s Bar during the weekly SlamJunk Blues night on Nov. 28.
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She’s feeling a little blues.

A Greenpoint singer-songwriter with roots in country and folk music will headline the weekly blues night SlamJunk Blues at Freddy’s Bar on Nov. 28. Deborah Smith, who also plays acoustic guitar, will play selections from her latest album, “Hearing in the Bardo,” a collection of tunes about loss that leans more heavily on jazz and blues than her usual upbeat and folksy music, she said.

“It’s a pretty serious departure from the music I’m used to performing,” said Smith.

The album is also more personal than her other work, exploring the feelings of losing and letting go that she felt following the death of her father about nine years ago. The Tibetan word “bardo,” the liminal state after death but before the next life, perfectly exemplifies the intense feelings she experienced during that painful time, she said.

“It kind of describes that period in our existence that drifts between physical manifestations, all the stuff feels really intense,” said Smith. “They are all songs I wrote surrounding the death of my father. While the material isn’t about that, the common thread of the music was written in a time period of feeling really intensely palpable. It’s a little more brave in terms of expressing true feelings, daring in terms of rhythmic structures, and a lot of that had to do with letting things go.”

Smith will be joined on stage by her long-time musical collaborators, including Lucas Papaelias on electric guitar, Douglas Cox on drums, Liz Hanley on fiddle, and Colin Brown — whose organ trio will play at Freddy’s later that same night — on piano.

It is sure to be a fun evening, said Smith, who just returned from a European tour.

“It’s going to be great,” she said. “I’m very excited about the first show I’m performing back in Brooklyn after doing my first ever tour in France and Spain.”

The SlamJunk Blues weekly blues night often features musicians who played with late Brooklyn blues greats Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings or Charles Bradley, said the evening’s progammer.

“I choose from folks that are kind of in our family, in our community, people that come to shows,” said Billy Jackson, who lives in Crown Heights.

But Smith is a perfect addition to the close-knit group of musicians who regularly perform at the Park Slope pub, he said. Her piano player, Brown, suggested that Jackson invite her to the show, and after listening to her music, Jackson had to agree.

“The fact that she’s a total musician, it was kind of a no-brainer,” he said. “After review, I was like ‘hell yeah!’ ”

Deborah Smith at Freddy’s Bar (627 Fifth Ave. between 17th and 18th streets in Greenwood Heights, Nov. 28 at 8 pm. $5.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:52 pm, July 9, 2018
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