Some artists continually reinvent themselves; others identify their muse early on and spend their careers single-mindedly pursuing it, remaining recognizably themselves through a career-long process of refinement, growth and discovery. Chris Smither belongs to the latter group. Leave the Light On, Smither's masterful twelfth album—the first he's released on his own Mighty Albert label—stands as the quintessence of his life's work while throwing in some new wrinkles that reflect where he's been and what he's encountered since the last time around. But Smither's central theme as he enters his 60s is clearer than ever.
"The last three or four records I've done are mostly talking about the big questions—life, death, love and… not love—and where the whole thing's going," he says. This new "fistful of tunes," as he calls it, finds Smither once again in a contemplative mood, examining his thought processes on "Open Up," struggling to distinguish between self-deception and truth on "Seems So Real" and seeking the most fundamental kind of closure on "Father's Day." No, Leave the Light On is not a party record.