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David G. Smith had won a battle he didn't even know he was fighting.

This past summer, he went to a songwriters' retreat in Costa Rica to learn more about the craft from well-known composers such as Darrell Scott, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Mary Gauthier.

He also brought along all of the songs he had written.

"They all told me, ‘What are you doing here at this retreat when you've got an 800-song catalog?' " he recalled. "I said, ‘I just play those for fun. I know they're not right for Nashville.' "

But all three of them convinced him that they were right for Music City.

"It was like a slap upside the head," the 59-year-old said.

Smith, who was raised in Cascade, Iowa, taught himself guitar and learned piano at the University of Iowa, but he had put those talents on the back burner too often, playing occasionally at clubs in Nashville when he lived there.

Once he returned to Iowa, he got a job with the State Board of Medicine. It was only after he took a buyout last year that he renewed his interest in music.

"The songwriting's always been there, but now I'm back to the artist side as well," he said. "I'll see where that takes me."

Smith, who lives in Blue Grass, recorded the album in Nashville during the fall, backed by some of the best-known session players in town. "non-fiction" was released at a party there in April.

The album gets its Quad-City debut Saturday at the Redstone Room in the River Music Experience in downtown Davenport.

The album got rave reviews from Robert K. Oermann of Music Row magazine, one of the most respected critics in Nashville. He called Smith a "major find."

"There's audio pleasure in every track," Oermann added.

A world sound was added thanks to a French accordion and an Australian didgeridoo. Smith said it was "funkified in places," with a "swampy" sound added at times.

He compares his music with the likes of Bruce Springsteen's solo acoustic work, James Taylor, Amos Lee, Jackson Browne and Gauthier.

"I don't have a country song bone in my body," he said, "but I love Hank Williams. I'm drawn to great music."

Portions of the album sales are going to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Boys Town.

Smith said he'll be content singing, playing and writing as long as he can.

"This is a life sentence," he added. "I'm in it."

 

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