Smith Also Featured As Figure in the Game As a Guitar-Playing Cowboy

Brooklyn Folk Festival producer/host/musician Eli Smith and other members of the Brooklyn Folk Festival and Jalopy Theater community spent two and a half years working on in-game music for the new hit video game Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar Games). Smith plays banjo, guitar, jaw harp, mandolin and whistling. Other Jalopy/Brooklyn Folk Festival favorites also contributed music: Walker Shepard, who plays with Smith in band The Down Hill Strugglers, plays the fiddle; Ernie Vega recorded harmonica; Terry Waldo laid down some ragtime piano; and Chris Isto White added guitar.

Gamers will find Smith in the game, in the role of a cowboy, sitting at a campfire playing guitar. Smith painstakingly researched dozens of old and traditional cowboy songs, arranging and adapting songs, some rewritten to fit the game, and taught the songs to the actors who play the characters. Smith appears on the official soundtrack playing the banjo.

Smith says, “After I did an initial banjo recording session, they kept asking me back. I was impressed by their desire to have good, authentic music as part of the video game. They paid a lot of attention to detail. I tried to pick what songs would be authentic and appropriate for the story and time period. What a great project!”

Red Dead Redemption 2 has sold over 17 million copies in just a few weeks and is on track to be the best-selling game of 2018 and is nominated in 8 categories for The Game Awards. A reviewer for said, “If there is anything here in this game that feels actually, genuinely perfect, it’s the music.

Smith has previously contributed music to the soundtrack of Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films) and an album on Smithsonian Folkways with the Dust Busters. He has curated releases of historic archival recordings for Dust-to-Digital and Jalopy Records.

Author Elijah Wald says, “Eli Smith is one of the most vital figures in the new revival of traditional American music – not hipster Americana, not navel-gazing songwritery, but homemade, heartfelt old-time music with a deep sense of history, community, and the pleasures of good picking and singing.”

The 2019 Brooklyn Folk Festival will be April 5-7 at St. Ann’s Church in Brooklyn Heights.

Here is a New Yorker Magazine profile on the Brooklyn Folk Festival and Smith.