Welcome to FRIEND OR FOE. On this record Erica Smith offers wistful janglepop, puts the funk on a death ballad, dishes out lush soul, aches with a country waltz, and belts the blues. Her voice will alternately cure what ails you and break your pretty little heart.
Erica Smith moved to New York City in 1995 to start entry-level publishing job. For several months she spent many evenings cranking out poems on a manual typewriter and listening to NPR. Erica soon realized that she needed more human contact and lighthearted fun.
Erica signed up to volunteer at a newly-opened coffeehouse, the Fast Folk Café in TriBeCa. A haven for singer-songwriters, the club also hosted a monthly open stage for traditional music. The traditional music nights were wilder than the earnest, subdued singer-songwriter shows. Here, people sang gorgeous, often gory, ballads and deep blue blues. They stomped and hollered. They chanted chanteys. They asked Erica to sing with them! And she was only the barista! Erica mustered her courage and sang a whaling song she remembered from a beloved Judy Collins record. And her new friends said "nice job!" She decided that this crowd definitely was where it's at.
Erica quit writing poetry, instead spending her evenings typing out lyrics to traditional ballads and learning to play the guitar. The folks at the open stage--among the finest traditional roots musicians in the U.S.--taught her many more songs and gave her loads of encouragement.
By the late nineties, Fast Folk had closed its doors and the monthly open stage was in flux. Erica was ready to see how she would fare in the rest of the open mic world. She found a home at The Sidewalk Café in the East Village. Over the months, the songwriters on that scene encouraged Erica to start writing again.
Erica played solo and with a band in 2000 and 2001, trying out her new tunes. A self-titled CD came out on Listen Here! Records in late 2001, featuring spare interpretations of traditional roots music and contemporary songwriters alongside one of Erica's original compositions. It gained rave reviews--not only for the song selections and their tasteful arrangements, but also for Erica's honey soprano, which evoked comparisons to vintage Sandy Denny.
Erica spent most of 2002 in New York recording FRIEND OR FOE. She is backed by a stellar crew: Dave Campbell (Love Camp 7) on drums; Kenny Davidsen on keyboard; Jon Graboff (Laura Cantrell, the Schramms) on pedal steel; Andrew Heller (the Heller Theory) on guitar; Sanjay Kaul (Lunchin') on djembe; Ian Roure (the Larch) on slide guitar and mandolin; Jon Sobel (Halley DeVestern Band) on bass; Nick Smith on tabla; Orrin Star on banjo; and Rebecca Turner on harmony vocals. Mike Santoro (Amy Allison, Caitlin Cary) wrote gorgeous string arrangements, performed by Hubert Chen on violin, Catherine Graetzer on viola, and Laura Garber on cello, all members of the Spirit Quartet.
In 2002 Erica toured the UK, opening for Richard Buckner in Brighton and playing to delighted, drunken crowds in London. She was a guest on Charlie Gillett's "Sound of the World" show on BBC London and has appeared on, in, and around various radio shows and clubs, respected and nefarious alike, in the U.S.
Now it's time for you to drink up, and enjoy this great chick singer.