"A SONGWRITER WITH A DIFFERENT TOUCH"
Terry Smith, who was voted by the Traditional Music Association as its Songwriter of the Year in both 1995 and 1996, wrote “Far-Side Banks of Jordan,” which is featured twice in Robert Duvall’s movie, The Apostle, and is included on the film’s soundtrack CD. June Carter Cash, who plays Duvall’s mother, sings the song at the close of the opening scene, and later in the film, when she dies, an instrumental version provides background music. The song was also recorded by the Cox Family and Alison Krauss on their l995 Grammy-winning project, I Know Who Holds Tomorrow. Johnny and June Cash cut the first version of this song in the seventies, and June also recorded it with Mother Maybelle and her sisters as part of a Carter Family album. In fact, it is the Carter Family version that is used on The Apostle soundtrack CD, which won a Grammy in l999. In the spring of l999, June Carter Cash released Press On, her first solo album in over twenty-four years. She and Johnny Cash re-recorded “Far-Side Banks of Jordan” for this project, which won a Grammy in 2000; and before performing it on Press On, they tell an interesting story about when they first heard the song. Fast becoming a gospel and bluegrass standard, “Far-Side Banks of Jordan” has been recorded over 170 times, including renditions by Grand Ole Opry artist Ernie Ashworth and by the Statler Brothers on their album Amen and versions released in Australia, Canada, England, and Ireland. Anyone who hopes to keep loving someone beyond this mortal life can relate to this song.
Terry also wrote one of Roy Acuff’s last singles, “I Can’t Find a Train,” and the Oak Ridge Boys recorded his rousing gospel number, “Lord, I’ve Been Ready for Years.” Kitty Wells cut “It Doesn’t Say,” a song of Terry’s whose lyrics narrates all that cannot be fitted into a tombstone’s inscription. Terry’s “Ten Seconds in the Saddle” is in the Billboard chart book. Recorded twice by rodeo champ Chris LeDoux, it has received airplay in markets as far apart as Wyoming and Germany. There have been dozens of other Terry Smith songs cut, turning up on records by acts as diverse as the Statler Brothers; Kris Kristofferson; Patty Loveless; bluegrass premier gospel group, the Lewis Family; Lonnie Lynne LaCour; Bluegrass Brigade; the Singing Echoes; and Smoky Dawson—Australia’s equivalent to Roy Rogers.
A traditional country singer in his own right, Terry has released ten albums of original material to date. His newest project, Plain Old, Everyday, Ordinary Stuff, recorded in the summer of 2008, is an album that takes a look at the commonplace things—including love, of course—that we all deal with daily. Kickin’ Kountry (2006) is a straight-ahead, country project emphasizing the Texas dancehall music that Terry grew up listening to as a child. Christmas in the Air is Terry’s 2005 release and is a collection of the Christmas songs that Terry has written over the years. Matters of the Heart, the album that preceded Christmas in the Air, was cut in 2004 and is an album of love songs, but not just songs about romantic love. Matters of the Heart also includes songs about love of family, home, and country, including Terry’s September 11th song, “All I’ve Ever Known.” Far-Side Banks of Jordan and Other Inspirational Songs Written by Terry Smith, his first gospel album since l979, was released in 2002. This album includes Terry’s new cut of his most well-known song, along with thirteen others songs from his catalog never recorded before. Spokes in the Wheel, an album that focuses on the various kinds of songs that Terry writes—ballads, novelty, honky-tonk, story songs, inspirational, and gospel, came out in 2001. As Terry says, “Just as a spoke is only one part of a wheel, each of my musical and personal influences contribute to who I am as a person, and the various types of songs I write make up the sum of who I am as a writer and performer. That’s why Spokes in the Wheel was chosen as the title of this album.”
His first album was a country gospel project, Look at My Hands (1979), which features his initial version of “Far-Side Banks of Jordan.” He followed that with A Double Dose of Country (1987), a collection of country selections, including his ever-popular “The Little Brown Dog and the Little Green Frog” and “The Bug Song.” The updated version of this project, now titled The New a Double Dose of Country, was released in early 2004. Next came Quilt of Memories (1996), a mostly-acoustic concept project filled with nostalgic songs about the past. After that came Texas Roots (1999), a collection of songs exploring Terry’s Texas musical heritage. The album includes not only western swing and honky-tonk music but also ballads and tongue-in-cheek novelty songs, all tied together by a Texas theme.
As a singer, Terry has steadily built a following over the years in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, where his recordings of his own songs are played regularly. When more traditional country radio stations in the US began to air Quilt of Memories and later Texas Roots, that following began to spread to areas in the States where his music was being programmed.
For several years, Terry—who was born in Cordell, Oklahoma, and reared in Denton, Texas—taught English and sometimes coached baseball in public school systems in Texas and Tennessee. The classroom’s gain, however, was not country music’s loss. All those blackboards perhaps imposed on Terry a precision and care with words that made up for all those hours grading papers.
Many a “full-time” songwriter has a smaller catalog than Terry Smith, whose file cabinet holds almost two thousand songs—“the good, the bad, and the ugly” as Terry sums them all up. The songwriting method he has used over the years has probably assured that all three kinds were written—and his formula might give pause to those would-be bards waiting for “inspiration” to strike, while they order another beer and try to think of words to write on a paper napkin. While teaching, Terry wrote one song each Saturday. Over the years, his subconscious obediently trained itself to hold back, if possible, during the week, then break out on Saturday. Now that his days in the classroom are behind him, Terry plans to spend even more time writing, performing, and promoting his own recordings.
Terry has written songs for a wide range of audiences, and some he admits were written solely for himself. He says without exaggeration, “I’ve pitched songs to everyone from the country artists of the day to the Texas Rangers baseball team and Captain Kangaroo.” Terry has been around for a while and hopes to be for a long time to come. He is proud to be a writer and singer of traditional country music, and he will definitely give you a “double dose of country” anytime you let him! Steve Eng, author of the Porter Waggoner bio, A Satisfied Mind
--Steve Eng, author of A Satisfied Mind, a biography of Porter Wagoner