MEET THE BAND: David Smeltz (vocals, guitar), Eva Dilcue (vocals), Chopper (guitar), Russ Richards (keyboards), Chris Desantis (percussion), Chris Dunmore (drums), Adam Rich (bass)
THE GODFATHER OF CLEVELAND REGGAE: Smeltz started performing in 1978 when he co-founded I-Tal, the first American reggae rock band in the area. He had played in small bands prior to that but had an epiphany when he heard reggae for the first time. "I initially heard ska stuff like 'My Boy Lollipop' and 'Israelites' by Desmond Dekker," he says. "I had gone up to Boston when I was in high school. At the midnight movies, they showed The Harder They Come. That inspired me. It wasn't so much [Bob] Marley at first. It was Jimmy Cliff and Toots and the Maytals." Smeltz subsequently taught himself some chords, specifically G, C and D, which are used in lots of reggae songs. "Later, I started seeing the spiritual aspect to reggae," he says. "I got into that with the dreadlocks and the herb." The band splintered in the early '80s when some members formed First Light. I-Tal continued to play until the late 1980s and then in different formations until 1995.
THE ROAD TO RECOVERED: Smeltz, who now runs the nonprofit Clean House Inc., went into recovery for addiction issues in 2001. "I wanted to stay sober and stay clean, and I didn't think I would play anytime soon," he says. "I didn't start playing solo stuff until just recently." A year ago, he started writing songs that would make up his new album, Recovered. "They're all sober songs, which is a surprise," he says. "They're all originals except there's one song that is basically a biblical verse that I put music to, and there's a cover of an old Fleetwood Mac song."
WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: A confessional song such as "My Life" has a Sublime-like feel to it as Smeltz sings "that's not the way I live my life today" over an undulating acoustic guitar riff. "Everyone is excited about playing in the David Smeltz Project," says Smeltz, who also fronts a three-piece band he calls the Smeltztones. "We won't play out every night of the week like [local singer-songwriter] Carlos Jones does, but we still plan to play regularly." Smeltz says he's written other songs he'll record over the winter; he hopes to have another new disc out next year.
WHERE YOU CAN HEAR THEM: cleanhouseinc.org.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM:
David Smeltz Project performs with Steel Yard Sound System at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24, at the Beachland Tavern.