Stepping into 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, not to take a tour but to actually record your own songs, takes a special kind of nerve. Yet as Stuart Smith points out on his website, “There’s intimidation in that for sure, but there’s also a freedom in knowing that nothing you do will ever compare. So you can just do you.” Indeed, standing where everyone from Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to Howlin’ Wolf and Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm stood can be overwhelming, but it’s undoubtedly inspiring.
Hence ‘The Sun EP’ was born: the follow-up to Stuart Smith’s 2018 full-length debut ‘War Horse.’ Where his debut was fleshed out with atmospheric flourishes and driven by the comfort of a full band and sound, ‘The Sun EP’ pulls its strength from the famous room of its name and from the stripped-down approach Smith uses: just acoustic guitars, Smith’s Springsteen-esque rasp, and the microphone so many legends used before him. He wisely sidesteps any Sun-tastic Sam Phillips studio trademarks (you won’t hear any of that legendary slap-back echo here, it would detract and sound contrived at best); the focus is on the songs and the performances that the room seems to pull from Smith like the ghosts of those who came before.
In this hallowed setting, Smith’s songs are stripped bare, and as such their rich melodies and thoughtful lyrics are brought to the forefront. ‘Rattle the Locks’ for example, released as a single earlier this year in a full-band version, is performed here on acoustic with just a little extra vocal echo on the chorus, and its presence is stronger and more powerful because of it. Proving, as the six performances on ‘The Sun EP’ do, that if you’ve got the right room and the right songs, all you need to do is let the music flow.