Kill Rock Stars have released Elliott Smith’s “Some Song,” a track from the late songwriters’ previously unreleased live album, Live at Umbra Penumbra, out August 28th.
“Some Song” first appeared on the “Needle in the Hay” seven-inch single in 1995. “Got a rock song I’d like to play,” Smith tells the crowd on the live recording, strumming the acoustic guitar. “It’s a junkie dream, makes you so uptight/Yeah it’s Halloween tonight and every night,” he sings, before approaching the brooding chorus: “Help me kill my time/’Cause I’ll never be fine.”
Live at Umbra Penumbra took place on September 17th, 1994, at the Portland, Oregon, cafe of the same name. It marks the earliest known recording of the late songwriter performing solo. The album was produced and engineered by Larry Crane — the official archivist for the Smith family — who crafted it from a high-quality cassette provided by Casey Cyrnes. “Some Song” follows previously released track “Big Decision.“
In addition to the live album, Kill Rock Stars is reissuing Smith’s 1995 self-titled LP, Elliott Smith: Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition. A 52-page coffee-table book accompanies both the reissue and Live at Umbra Penumbra, featuring handwritten lyrics and two dozen previously unseen photographs by JJ Gonson, who also shot the album’s cover photo.
“I was around Elliott a lot, so he was very familiar with my camera, and you can see it in the way he looks, or doesn’t look, at the lens,” Gonson tells Rolling Stone. “Honestly, there are moments that I wonder why I have opened these files, because it is not easy to look at someone I was close to who is gone. I take photos because they are my way of making art, which I have to do.”
“In this shot, the hot cup from Coffee People and the wet streets tell a story; I love the way the diffuse light hits his shoulders, the top of his hands, and his hair, emphasizing the bright colors,” Gonson says. “This is a photo that satisfies me artistically, still there is no way I’m not going to notice that I am fully focused on a subject to whom I am emotionally tied. So, at the end of the day, I am happy to see him. I miss him, and I hope that I am going to help people to see the goofy, puppy-like Elliott that I remember.”
“At KRS we follow the direction of Elliott’s family,” adds Kill Rock Stars founder Slim Moon. “They have always expressed a desire for us to honor his legacy by keeping the albums available, and by bringing his music to new generations of listeners. As the industry has changed, we’ve worked hard to make sure Elliott’s legacy is available for new fans to discover and old fans to re-discover. He was a genius songwriter as well as a great musician, and we are honored to be able to help keep his legacy vibrant for every new generation.”
“As the person who originally signed him to Kill Rock Stars, starting with the ‘Needle in the Hay’ single and this self-titled album, I am especially passionate about putting forward reminders of this phase of his career — his magic as a solo performer and as a writer of songs for simply guitar and voice with little or no accompaniment,” he continued. “I also really want him to be remembered for his humor, warmth and absurdist sense of irony.”