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Laura Smith: a powerful voice is missing

I first heard Laura Smith (then known as Susie Smith) in London, ON. It was back in the mid-70s at Smale’s Pace Coffeehouse, and Laura was not only singing but waitressing at the club as well. I can’t tell you what she was singing that night, but it was probably something from the traditional repertoire. What I do remember is that she delivered the songs with a ton of conviction. No fooling around, she took hold of the song and delivered it directly to everyone in the audience.

This command of repertoire and delivery in performance is something that Laura continued to develop and refine throughout her life. It was indicative of how she lived. Despite setbacks that threw her music career off course for a number of years, she came back stronger than ever and ultimately built a national audience that was fiercely loyal.

As a musician she was intuitively smart and always knew what she wanted and what would work with her songs. I had the opportunity to back her up on guitar on a number of occasions, and it was always a pleasure to work with a singer that was so confident and strong. I’m sure other folks like Tony McManus and Paul Mills would agree. Basically, Laura carried the show and we went along for the ride. My partner, Sue Lothrop, and I also had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Laura a few times. In those instances, she was warm, gracious and always quick to add a third harmony that was perfect.  

As a partner in Borealis (Laura’s label), we started discussing a new project prior to Laura’s becoming ill. True to form, she wanted to continue working on this until the end. She somehow managed to gather enough strength to record two new songs just a few weeks before she died. We’re hoping that, in the months to come, we’ll be able to add these to some of her best-loved songs and poetry in a package that will do her justice.

There are a number of folks that knew Laura well from different periods of her life.

I hope they will feel like contributing their own stories about this wonderful artist.

Bill Garrett – March 2020

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