I got into the Red House Painters while working in a record store in the mid 90s. I actually found the live performances to be where the band really shined. The first time I heard Mark fill a room with his voice off mic I was blown away. The recordings are a bit much for me. I was never a huge fan (I think it's clear that I generally like more concise pop songs) but over the past few months I've been obsessed with this version of Smokey. It's the demo version taken from the Shanti Project Collection benefit cd. Just a simple solo acoustic version with some very slightly altered lyrics.
My best friend in the entire world is a huge fan. She loves sad bastard music even more than me. I think the Painters qualify as the saddest of sad bastard music out there. I can't tell you how many nights we drove around getting thoroughly depressed listening to this stuff. Yet those are some of my fondest memories. That's how life works, my friends.