Gene Watson Peer’s Quote from Valerie Smith: April 2011

Gene Watson’s Peers within the country music industry believe in the sheer talent of this unassuming man from east Texas, so much so that Gene is regarded by many of them as ‘the singer’s singer’ – and rightly so!

All of Gene Watson’s Peers, who were contacted during 2011, were most gracious with their time and words.

It is here, within this special part of The Gene Watson Fan Site, that you have an opportunity to read a quote from Valerie Smith, which she submitted to this site on Thursday 7 April 2011.

Sean Brady would like to take this opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to Valerie Smith who made a special contribution to this unique part of this online ‘celebration of a Lone Star Hero’.

Valerie Smith



Valerie Smith
This quote was submitted on Thursday 7 April 2011.

‘Gene Watson is an artist that every artist would like to be.

He has his own unique phrasing and sound that reaches the soul.

No one sings country like he does’

Thank you, Valerie Smith, for your support of Gene Watson.

About Valerie Smith…

Valerie Smith

Valerie Smith was born Valerie Jean Smith at North Kansas City Hospital in Kansas City, MO and her hometown is Holt, MO.

The appearance and success during the 1980s of headliners like Laurie Lewis, Alison Krauss and Lynn Morris began a trend of wider acceptance of women fronting their own bands and, as bluegrass moved on toward the end of the century, more and more bright, new talents like Valerie Smith began to emerge.

Although jazz and pop fans may be familiar with another woman of the same name who sang and recorded with the likes of Natalie Cole (Monday 6 February 1950 – Thursday 31 December 2015), this Missouri native who exploded onto the bluegrass scene in the late 1990s won a devoted following among even the most die-hard fans of the music of Bill Monroe (Wednesday 13 September 1911 – Monday 9 September 1996).

Located in the heartland of western Missouri, some twenty-five miles northeast of Kansas City, the small farming community of Holt was hometown to Valerie Smith, daughter of musical parents David and Jean Stevens.

A natural performer, Valerie Smith was about five years old when she began singing in church and developing a passion for music, particularly the country music on the radio that ranged from the classic sounds of The Carter Family to the contemporary fare of artists like Emmylou Harris.

As a teenager, Valerie Smith suffered a severe allergy attack that robbed her of her voice for a time, so she took up the fiddle as an added outlet for her talents, but she was eventually able to sing again.  After graduating from high school, she was dead set on trying her luck right away in Nashville, but was convinced by her parents that college would be a wiser course.

Valerie Smith enrolled at Conservatory of Music at the Kansas City campus of University of Missouri and experienced a widening of her musical horizons beyond country and bluegrass, into the realms of jazz, opera, Broadway and other genres.  Valerie Smith received her B.A. in vocal music education and further broadened her musical horizons.

While attending school, Valerie Smith was to meet her future husband, Kraig Smith and, as fate would have it, a chance opportunity led Kraig to a job in Nashville shortly after they were married.  By then, Valerie Smith had been teaching school in her hometown for two years and even though she knew she would miss teaching, she felt fate was pulling her toward Tennessee.  In 1992, Valerie and Kraig Smith arrived in Nashville and settled into their new life.

It didn’t take Valerie Smith long to get into the Nashville music scene, even while holding down a job with an advertising agency and then teaching middle school music.  She formed the acoustic country group ‘Fresh Cactus’ and played extensively in Nashville while honing her song-writing and performance skills.

Valerie Smith’s love for bluegrass music never waned and, while attending a festival in Franklin, she met old-time musicians Junior and Betty Parker.  The Parkers quickly adopted Valerie Smith and invited her to play with them in the tiny Tennessee hamlet of Bell Buckle.

Bell Buckle Café, Bell Buckle, Tennessee

It was in Bell Buckle, Tennessee that Valerie Smith met local entrepreneur J. Gregry Heinike, owner of Bell Buckle Café.

Bell Buckle Records

Valerie Smith, J. Gregory and Kraig Smith founded Bell Buckle Records, and Valerie Smith recorded her first highly acclaimed album, ‘Patchwork Heart’ (Rebel Records, 1998), and formed her band, which she called Liberty Pike.

Valerie Smith’s Liberty Pike comprised Becky Buller (vocals / fiddle / claw-hammer banjo / guitar / songwriter), Rebekah Long (bass / mandolin / fiddle / guitar) and Ernie Evans (vocals / guitar / mandolin / banjo).

Valerie Smith: 'Patchwork Heart' (Rebel Records, 1998)

For her debut recording, ‘Patchwork Heart’ (Rebel Records, 1998), Valerie Smith enlisted banjo player, and experienced bluegrass producer, Alan O’Bryant of The Nashville Bluegrass Band, to produce the album, as well as an impressive cast of session players and vocalists, which included Ronnie McCoury, Jerry Douglas, Roland White, Charlie Louvin (Thursday 7 July 1927 – Wednesday 26 January 2011) and fellow ‘new wave’ female bluegrass stars Claire Lynch and Kathy Chiavola.

Released on Tuesday 15 September 1998, Valerie Smith’s ‘Patchwork Heart’ (Rebel Records, 1998) met with immediate critical acclaim as a well-rounded album by an exciting new talent, but it was Valerie’s breezy, wistful treatment of Gillian Welch’s ‘Red Clay Halo’ that accumulated airplay on bluegrass radio shows in the United States and as far away as Estonia and Australia.

Valerie Smith’s ‘Patchwork Heart’ (Rebel Records, 1998) was distributed widely by Virginia-based Rebel Records and, well into 1999, ‘Red Clay Halo’ remained a fixture on the monthly Top 30 survey, which was published by Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine.

Valerie Smith’s ‘Patchwork Heart’ (Rebel Records, 1998) included the following tracks:

‘Red Clay Halo’ (written by Gillian Welch)
‘Lonesome Midnight Train’ (written by Sara Majors)
‘My Heart Won’t Let Your Memory Go Away’ (written by Sara Majors and Robin Roller)
‘The Man In The Middle’ (written by Tom ‘Harley’ Campbell)
‘Second Fiddle (To An Old Guitar)’ (written by Betty Amos)
‘Summer’s Last Dance’ (written by Sara Majors)
‘Bittersweet’ (written by Tom Roznowski and Valerie Smith)
‘Fast Train Through Arkansas’ (written by Wayne Raney)
‘My Baby’s Gone’ (written by Hazel Houser) / this track featured guest vocals from Charlie Louvin (Thursday 7 July 1927 – Wednesday 26 January 2011)
‘Greener Pastures’ (written by Gretchen Peters)
‘Life’s Rough & Rocky Road’ (written by Gretchen Peters)
‘Patchwork Heart’ (written by Cindy Fee and Kin Vassy)

Valerie Smith: 'Turtle Wings' (Rebel Records, 2000)

On Tuesday 30 May 2000, Valerie Smith saw the release of ‘Turtle Wings’ (Rebel Records, 2000), which included the following tracks:

‘I Feel The Blues Moving In’ (written by Del McCoury)
‘Oh, Mandolin, which was written by Herb McCullough (Thursday 18 May 1944 – Tuesday 5 May 2015), Debbie Nims and Taylor Pie / this track featured guest vocals from Tim O’Brien
‘Sweeter Field of Clover’ (written by Alan O’Bryant and Valerie Smith)
‘Big Ol’ Train’ (written by Bob Regan and Kimmie Rhodes)
‘Times Like These’ (written by Sara Majors and Sarah Majors)
‘Simpson’s Holler’ (written by Larry McNeely and Jack Skinner)
‘Dancin’ By The River’ (written by Chris Gantry and Alan Shipston)
‘Turtle Wings’ (written by Tom Roznowski)
‘Hand Me Down’ (written by Alan O’Bryant and Valerie Smith)
‘Someday Came Today’ (written by Sara Majors and Sarah Majors)
‘Good Man’ (written by Linda J. Thornton)
‘Now He’s Gone’ (written by Dick Staber)
‘Mama’s Roses’ (written by Raymond C. Davis Jr.)

Ralph Stanley & Friends: 'Clinch Mountain Sweethearts' (Rebel Records, 2001)

In 2001, Valerie Smith was nominated for a Grammy Award when she participated in the Ralph Stanley (Friday 25 February 1927 – Thursday 23 June 2016) & Friends’ ‘Clinch Mountain Sweethearts’ (Rebel Records, 2001), for which she recorded a stunning version of ‘I’ll Remember You Love In My Prayers’, which was written by William Shakespeare Hays (19 July 1837 – 23 July 1907).

Valerie Smith: 'No Summer Storm' (Rebel Records, 2002)

In 2002, Valerie Smith saw the release of ‘No Summer Storm’ (Rebel Records, 2002), which included the following tracks:

‘Sawmill Man’
‘Sarah’, which was written by Herb McCullough (Thursday 18 May 1944 – Tuesday 5 May 2015) and David Schnaufer
‘No Summer Storm’ (written by Lisa Aschmann and Mark Simos)
‘Jacob Spence’ (written by Becky Buller)

‘Love Wagon’ (written by Chapin Hartford)
‘Let’s Let It Go’, which was written by Herb McCullough (Thursday 18 May 1944 – Tuesday 5 May 2015) and Valerie Smith
‘Sit Down & Cry’, which was written by Tom T. Hall (Monday 25 May 1936 – Friday 20 August 2021) and Dixie Hall (Saturday 26 May 1934 – Friday 16 January 2015) / this track featured a guitar part from Tom T. Hall
‘Walk Away’
‘Lord, I’m Ready Now’ (written by Lisa Aschmann and Richard Fleming)
‘I’m Looking for a Man’ (written by Lisa Aschmann and Mark Simos)
‘Where The Blue Bells Grow’ (written by Valerie Smith and Kraig Smith)

Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike: 'That's What Love Can Do' (Belt Buckle Records, 2005)

On Wednesday 6 July 2005, Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike saw the release of ‘That’s What Love Can Do’ (Belt Buckle Records, 2005), which included the following tracks:

‘Heaven Is Waiting’ (written by Becky Buller)
‘Fill My Every Need’ (written by Megan McCormick)
‘In Those Mines’ (written by Becky Buller)
‘Engineer’ (written by Becky Buller)
‘Healing Hills’ (written by Chris Crawford and Sarah Majors)
‘Buzzed’ (written by Lisa Aschmann and Joni Bishop)
‘Falling’ (written by Brad Davis and Gary Scruggs)
‘Sarah Hogan’ (written by John Lowell)
‘Rocky Island / Sally Goodin’ (Public Domain)
‘Planet Or A Star’ (written by Lisa Aschmann and Tom Kimmel)
‘That’s What Love Can Do’ (written by Kraig Smith and Valerie Smith)
‘Thunder Clouds of Love’ (written by Jimmy Headrick)
‘Peace of The River’ (written by Lisa Aschmann and John Smith)

Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike: 'Wash Away Your Troubles' (Bell Buckle Records, 2006)

On Friday 8 September 2006, Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike saw the release of ‘Wash Away Your Troubles’ (Bell Buckle Records, 2006), which included the following tracks:

‘The Rain’ (written by Becky Buller)
‘Music To My Ears’ (written by Lisa Aschmann, Becky Buller and Mark Simos)
‘Blossoms On The Almond Tree’ (written by Lisa Aschmann and Mark Simos)
‘Wings To Fly’ (written by Cindy Greene and Claire Lynch)
‘Soul Phone’ (written by Christi Baker, Shari Baker and Sarah Majors)
‘Getting Ready For Sunday’ (written by Becky Buller)
‘Seeds’ (written by Lisa Aschmann and Mark Simos)
‘My Jesus’ (written by Becky Buller)
‘God’s Refrigerator’ (written by Lisa Aschmann and Karen Taylor-Good)
‘Make Him A Soldier’, which was written by Charlie Louvin (Thursday 7 July 1927 – Wednesday 26 January 2011) and Ira Louvin (Monday 21 April 1924 – Sunday 20 June 1965)
‘Raise This River’ (written by Lisa Aschmann and John Tirro)

Valerie Smith & Bucky Buller: 'Here's a Little Song' (Bell Buckle Records, 2008)

In 2008, Valerie Smith & Bucky Buller (vocals / fiddle / claw-hammer banjo / guitar / songwriter) saw the release of ‘Here’s A Little Song’ (Bell Buckle Records, 2008), which included the following tracks:

‘I Got A Letter’ (written by Robert Fraker)
‘Life Is Not A Guarantee’ (written by Lynda Wittig)
‘Heart of The House’ (written by Becky Buller and Sarah Majors)

‘Tennessee Courtin’ Time’, which was written by Hy Heath (1890 – 1965) and Fred Rose (Floyd Jenkins) (24 August 1898 – Wednesday 1 December 1954)
‘Cottonmill’ (written by Roberta Gordon and Holly Tashian)
‘Whisper Baby’ (written by Tom Roznowski)
‘Hand of Help’ (written by Becky Buller)
‘There Is A Time’ (written by Rodney Dillard and Mitch Jayne)
‘The River’ (written by Becky Buller)
‘Hot Grease At Midnight’ (written by Tom Roznowski)
‘Four Wet Pigs & The Ham Chorus’ (written by Greg Brown and Becky Buller)
‘Your Goodnight Is My Good-bye’ (written by Katie Nunez)

Valerie Smith’s music has taken her from coast to coast in the United States and around the world.  Valerie Smith has become an ambassador of bluegrass music and has entertained music lovers in New York, London, Berlin, Dublin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and hundreds of other venues throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Europe.

Valerie Smith has been the recipient of IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Awards.

Valerie Smith has also appeared on the famous Grand Ole Opry in Nashville as guest of Hall of Famer Charlie Louvin (Thursday 7 July 1927 – Wednesday 26 January 2011).

Valerie Smith, her husband, Kraig and daughter, Josie reside in their adopted hometown of Bell Buckle, Tennessee.

Valerie Smith: 'Renaissance' (Bell Buckle Records, 2021)

On Friday 3 September 2021, Valerie Smith saw the release of ‘Renaissance’ (Bell Buckle Records, 2021), which was produced by Valerie Smith and Tim Carter, and included the following tracks:

‘I’m Fine Bein’ Me’ (written by Valerie Smith)

Personnel
Andy Leftwich and Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes (mandolin)
Bob Minner (acoustic guitar)
Tom Gray (bass)
Joe Zauner (banjo)
Wally Hughes (fiddle)
Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes and Wally Hughes (harmony vocals)

‘This song represents reaching a place in your life where recognition of self-worth and acceptance of life around you finally come to pass.  The music industry can be challenging, and it is easy to lose yourself and your grasp on what is essential in life.  As a mother, I have always felt that it is important for my daughter to see demonstrations of self-love and confidence’

‘Heartbreak Hill’ (written by Gary Scruggs and Tony Arata)

Personnel
Andy Leftwich and Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes (mandolin)
Bob Minner (acoustic guitar)
Dave Roe (bass)
Joe Zauner (banjo)
Stephen Burrell (fiddle)
Wally Hughes (resonator guitar)
Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes and Wally Hughes (harmony vocals)

‘I love singing and moving to ‘Heartbreak Hill’; it has the nostalgic feel of Johnny Cash’s rockabilly days.  Dave Roe played bass for Johnny Cash (Friday 26 February 1932 – Friday 12 September 2003), and he does on this cut for me as well.  This one is just fun to sing and to move with – it’s a toe-tapper for sure’

‘On That Train’ (written by Jude Johnstone)

Personnel
Tim Lorsch (strings)
Bob Minner (acoustic guitar)
Kevin McKendree (synth strings)
Stephen Burwell (fiddle)
Dave Roe (bass)
Tanya Dennis (harmony vocals)

‘On That Train’ was written by one of Johnny Cash’s favourite songwriters, Jude Johnstone.  The lyrics cleverly approach the subject of regret, the wish we would have dared to take a chance for love and life’

‘Dancin’ With The Stars’ (written by David Lauver, Bobby Johnston and Jerry Salley)

Personnel
Stephen Burwell (fiddle)
Bob Minner (acoustic guitar)
Tom Gray (bass)
Andy Leftwich (mandolin)
Donna Ulisse and Jerry Salley (harmony vocals)

‘You can never beat a laid-back swing tune like ‘Dancing With The Stars’ which is all about happiness, contentment, and love.  Jerry Salley (composer) and Donna Ulisse add their clever harmonies as icing on the cake!  This song also allowed me to work with one of my old bandmates, Andy Leftwich (mandolin).  It puts a smile on my face!’

‘Heart of Sorrow’ (written by Claire Lynch and Frank Serio)

Personnel
Bob Minner (acoustic guitar)
Stephen Burwell (fiddle)
Sammy Shelor (banjo)
Tom Gray (bass)
Andy Leftwich (mandolin)
Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes and Wally Hughes (harmony vocals)

‘Heart of Sorrow’ offers up a swampy, soulful bluegrass tempo number for this album.  In life we lose and our hearts get broken, which brings us to the blues.  It’s all just part of the rocky process of being human’

‘The River Whispers’ (written by Claire Ulanoff and Marissa DiBlassio)

Personnel
Bob Minner and Wally Hughes (acoustic guitar)
Kevin McKendree (strings)
Andy Leftwich (mandolin)
Dave Roe (bass)
Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes and Wally Hughes (harmony vocals)

‘I love walks in nature, because when we can’t find the answers to our complicated lives, nature will often bring us comfort.  Rivers have always been a symbol of peace, hope, and love, for many years.  While traveling and playing music with the legendary Tom Gray, he encouraged me to go river kayaking with him, and it turned out to be a spiritual experience for me during a time of healing’

‘I Found’ (written by Joshua Keogh)

Personnel
Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes (mandolin)
Wally Hughes (strings)
Bob Minner (acoustic guitar)
Tom Gray (upright bass)
Joe Zauner (banjo)
Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes and Wally Hughes (harmony vocals)

‘I Found’ is my cover of a popular song by the indie rock group Amber Run.  I fell in love with its clever melody and lyrics, which come through strongly in our recorded version.  Radio DJ of ‘Unreal Bluegrass’, Steve Martin, says it best: ‘Valerie Smith possesses one of the more interpretive and sensitive voices in all of music.  She feels lyrics deeply and wants the listener to feel with her.  ‘I Found’ is the perfect opportunity for Valerie, with strong backing by Liberty Pike, to reach deeply down and then stretch back out to the audience.  Ultimately the song describes life, gliding over unexpected obstacles and finding love where it wasn’t supposed to be.  The serendipity of joy.  Valerie Smith takes you with her, breathing with you as you find smiles and happiness’ Steve Martin (Unreal Bluegrass)

‘Big Red’ (written by Daniel Crabtree)

Personnel
Bob Minner (acoustic guitar)
Andy Leftwich (mandolin)
Stephen Burwell (fiddle)
Joe Zauner (banjo)
Tom Gray (upright bass)
Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes and Wally Hughes (harmony vocals)

‘Big Red’ was written by one of my favourite songwriters, Daniel Crabtree.  The song describes a historically famous horserace that involved a horse nicknamed ‘Big Red’ (Triple Crown winner Secretariat).  The song also represents what sheer focus and determination can do for one facing challenges to achieve goals.  There is a lot to be said for starting out slow, but coming in strong at the finish line’

‘Do You Know Where Your Heart Is Tonight’ (written by Jeff Walter)

Personnel
Bob Minner (acoustic guitar)
Wally Hughes (resonator guitar)
Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes (mandolin)
Stephen Burwell (fiddle)
Joe Zauner (banjo)
Tom Gray (upright bass)
Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes and Wally Hughes (harmony vocals)

‘Do You Know Where Your Heart Is Tonight?’ explores how complicated interpersonal and family relationships can be when people travel a lot for their jobs.  I have traveled all of my life, and my heart has not always been in the right place, and it is easy to develop a bubble around yourself and lose communication with your loved ones.  Plus, it is a good soulful country two-step song’

‘The Great I Am’ (written by Mike Lane)

Personnel
The McCrary Sisters (Ann, Alfreda and Regina) (harmonies)
Tim Carter (banjo)
Ann McCrary (tamborine)
Dave Roe (electric bass)
Andy Leftwich (mandolin, fiddle)

‘This rousing number was written by Pastor Mike Lane when he was about to give a sermon.  I love the soulful sounds and lyrics which celebrate a power more significant than ourselves, the power of faith.  The McCrary Sisters sang the background on this track, and they really brought it home for me’

‘Heaven Is Holding You’ (written by Ann Miller)

Personnel
Bob Minner (acoustic guitar)
Dave Roe (upright bass)
Tim Lorsch (strings)

‘My daughter, Josie Smith, graduated from high school this year, and the idea of her moving out of the house to college was a tough pill for me to swallow.  I indeed suffer from separation anxiety; she is the result of the best thing I ever did in my life…being a mother.  I think we all wish safety, hope, and love, for all of our children’

‘A Dollar Looked Mighty Good’ (written by Valerie Smith and Ashely Lewis)

Personnel
Cody Kilby (acoustic guitar)
Evan Winsor (upright bass)
Stephen Burwell (fiddle)
Andy Leftwich (mandolin)
Tim Carter (banjo)
Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes and Wally Hughes (harmony vocals)

‘Ashely Lewis and I wrote this song based on an excerpt from my great grandmother Maggie Brooks’ journal which I found in an old trunk about 7 years ago.  She had finally escaped from a violent marriage and learned how to earn her own money by doing various jobs.  Maggie ended up being a very successful businesswoman in Plattsburg, Missouri, owning and operating a general store and a hotel.  She was pretty proud to earn her own dollars and rise above her many early life challenges’

‘Enter In’ (written by Claire Lynch and Irene Kelley)

Personnel
Bob Minner (acoustic guitar)
Wally Hughes (fiddle, Dobro)
Joe Zauner (banjo)
Tom Gray (upright bass)
Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes (mandolin)
Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes and Wally Hughes (harmony vocals)

‘I love the simplicity and traditional feel of the lyrics and melody of ‘Enter In’.  The song was written by bluegrass recording artists, Claire Lynch and Irene Kelley.  The song is a true sing-along and, being a former music teacher, I love to encourage people to join in the fun!  I am a fan of the music these two fine women make and was tickled to pull this one out of their music vault’

‘Unchained’ (written by Jude Johnstone)

Personnel
Bob Minner (acoustic guitar)
Dave Roe (upright bass)
Rob Ickes (Dobro)
Kevin McKendree (synth strings)
Tanya Dennis (harmony vocals)
Stephen Burwell (fiddle)

‘Unchained’ is another powerfully written song written by Jude Johnstone.  It was actually one of the final songs that Johnny Cash () released and I’m proud to cover it on my latest album.

During the pandemic, emotions were high and turbulent, and I reflected upon many things.  This song is about being truthful with yourself and trying to become a better, stronger person.  Once we can see ourselves clearly, we can become unchained from the perceptions that hold us back from loving relationships with ourselves and others’

Valerie Smith



‱ Visit Valerie Smith’s official site at thevaleriesmith.com