If you haven’t heard of Corey Smith before – well, let me introduce you to him. He’s a native of northern Georgia, a former schoolteacher, a father, a husband, and a musician. He’s also someone you will be hearing a lot more about this year – starting with the release of the first single, “Twenty-One”, off his upcoming album “The Broken Record”.
After many years of releasing his music independently (and selling over 150,000 albums in the process), Corey recently joined forces with Average Joes Entertainment. He is slated to release “The Broken Record” in June. Corey has said the new record is a comprehensive look at how he has changed over the years – a blend of old songs and new songs, woven together to “hopefully convey a message about life”. That blend of old and new perfectly describes “Twenty-One”.
The first song Corey ever recorded in a studio, “Twenty-One” was originally released on his debut album “Undertones”. Longtime fans will not be strangers to the song – it is far and away the most popular tune he’s released (it was also the first song my brother played for me when he introduced me to Corey’s music a few years ago.) It’s always one of the highlights of Corey’s live shows, never failing to elicit a raucous cheer as soon as the open guitar riff hits the audience.
The original is a straight acoustic version, just Corey and his guitar. It’s written from the perspective of a twenty-six year old just taking his first steps on the bridge to responsibility. For the new album, Corey updated both the instrumentation and the last verse of the song. The arrangement now has fullness and depth that matches the career Corey has built over the past seven years. The addition of piano, bass, and drums round the song out in with a warm ambience well suited for radio airplay. At the same time, the simple acoustic heritage of the song is still there and still delivers an emotional punch.
For the new ending, Corey penned an ending that acknowledges and celebrates the place he finds himself in now. No longer twenty-six and discovering his place in the world, Corey writes:
Now I’m somewhere in the gray of middle class and middle age,
The man in the mirror looks more like my father every day.
My clothes are out of fashion, my hair is gettin’ thin,
And my favorite conversation starts with “I remember when”.
As someone well along the path to middle age himself, those words resonated with me in a special way. Truly gifted songwriters can take the complex emotions we all feel and the common experiences we all share and distill them down to a few well-crafted words that are instantly recognizable as the truth of the matter. That’s what “Twenty-One” is to me – the truth of growing up. It captures both the yearning of the young for the independence that comes with age, and the longing of the adult for the freedoms of childhood.
“Twenty-One” was brilliant when it was first released eight years ago. What Corey has done with this single is something special – he’s taken an already great song and made it even better. It’s honest, it’s heartfelt, it’s true – it’s just a damn good song. I can’t wait to hear what he’s done for the full album this summer.
You can listen to the updated version of “Twenty-One” below. Once you’ve listened to it and fallen in love with it, go buy it on iTunes. While you’re there, pick up some of Corey’s earlier albums – “Undertones”, “Outtakes From The Georgia Theater”, “In The Mood”, “The Good Life”, “Hard-Headed Fool”, and “Keeping Up With The Joneses”. You won’t be disappointed.
Corey Smith – Twenty-One by musictoday
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