This set is more conventional in scope; its 11 songs aren't unified thematically but still offer uncommonly strong storytelling.
Smith's protagonists are almost always marginal characters and his songs offer them voices without judgment.
He presents these tales in an imaginative musical palette.
He ranges from edgy Americana ("Last Call to Heaven," "I Got You") to alt-country ("Dark Days," "Home Is in Your Arms") and raw roots rock & roll ("Modern Times").
Along the way are unexpected production touches -- mariachi horns in "Chico," a jazzy trumpet solo in "Last Call to Heaven" -- that add depth to his stories and dimension to his characters.