Micah Blue plays folk blues in a style both archaic and timeless. He made a name for himself in the Boston punk scene of the Eighties and Nineties with bands like Pinkerton Thugs and Out Cold. In the new century he dropped out for a while before returning with 2002's Some Sweet Day
, a collection of guitar-driven, ragtime-influenced tunes. The music on Hither and Thither
is more diverse but still rooted in the dawn of American guitar virtuosity. Like John Fahey, Lead Belly, Doc Boggs, and other alleged modern primitives, Smaldone attempts to update traditional rural blues and folk music. His voice is wispy and wraithlike, with a catch that makes him sound close to tears or on the verge of a yelp of terror. "Coal Black Crêpe" is a funereal dirge full of shadows and half-glimpsed images; "Funny Farm" is a portrait of a mind gradually giving way to a dark, surrealistic paranoia and is driven by Smaldone's clattering banjo-picking; and "A Little at a Time" details the many slow deaths a soul can face in the long, dark months of a Northeastern winter. The cover art recalls Edward Gorey's Penny Dreadful style, a perfect complement to Smaldone's deep, brooding music.