Jesse Smathers Cuts Loose With New Single, “What’ll I Do With the Baby-O”

Article Contributed by Rainwater Poster Co. | Published on Monday, February 26, 2024

Mountain music has been in Jesse Smathers’ family for generations. His grandfather, Harold Smathers, and grand uncle Luke Smathers, recorded for June Appal and were awarded the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1993 for their contributions to North Carolina folk music. And that’s just one piece of the family tree: the Smathers musical tradition can be traced back to when the family first settled in the North Carolina mountains in the 1700s. So it’s only natural that Jesse Smathers picked up the guitar at age 11 and hasn’t looked back since.

With “What’ll I Do With the Baby-O,” Smathers carries on his family tradition with a track that’s both timeless and fresh. This traditional mountain lullaby is given an uptempo treatment and an arrangement that will have listeners ready to dance. “Whether it be a swinging two-step or a square dance tune, my family has always made music folks could move to,” says Smathers. “That influence has carried on into the music that I strive to make today.”

Smathers gathered a group of friends at The Shop Studio in Candler, NC to put together the exuberant, lighthearted track. “It’s a simple, classic melody,” says Smathers, “It drives along the verses, which are full of cute visuals that get sillier as the song goes on.” The song features remarkable interplay between Hunter Berry’s driving fiddle and Corbin Hayslett’s outstanding banjo work in classic string band fashion, while Nick Goad (mandolin), Joe Hannabach (bass), and Smathers hold down the rhythmic fort. Patrick Robertson joins in on harmony vocals, and a good time is had by all.

“It was such a treat getting to record ‘What’ll I Do With the Baby-O’ on Jesse’s new project,” says Hayslett. “Putting a high-energy spin onto this old chestnut with a powerhouse bunch of musicians stands as a highlight of making music for me. Who says you need more than two chords to have a knockout track?”

With a new full-length album slated for release later this year, Smathers hopes “What’ll I Do With the Baby-O” will offer a taste of what’s to come - and make folks smile. He encourages listeners to “slip on your dancing shoes, and burn a hole in the floor!”

“What’ll I Do With the Baby-O” was released to streaming services worldwide on Friday, February 9.