Year of the Album — #020
Danny Schmidt – “Man of Many Moons” (2011, Red House Records)
Austin’s Danny Schmidt is one of those folk songwriters you have to hear to fully believe. I’ve followed his music for more than a decade, and have seen him live in “house concert” format, during which time he performed for a crowd of half a dozen as though they were a packed house, intimately exposing his music to rapt listeners who, I’m sure, became ardent fans.
His latest effort, 2011′s Man of Many Moons, is his seventh full-length album, his second on Red House Records, and it’s also one of his most cohesive and consistent listens. From the mournful harmonies of “Little White Angels” to the quiet acoustic pickings of “Know Thy Place” and everything in between, the album’s a studied examination of the modern idea of art, the forsaking of privacy for the sake of artistic expression, and all the ways musicians expose their innermost creative workings to audiences with no guarantee they’ll ever really be understood.
I could go on forever talking about intricate details of the songs themselves, but they’re best examined via close headphone listening, without a lot of pre-screened critical interference. But suffice it to say, the material within these eleven tracks is some of the most impressive Schmidt has written to date — managing to be both lyrically complex and musically spare, which serves the songs well as a whole.
The album’s centerpiece is a pair of songs at its midpoint — “Guilty By Association Blues” and “Almost Around The World.” On the former, Schmidt has crafted a humorous political pastiche through the use of animal imagery, and the latter is an example of what can happen in our modern world of instant communication, when bits and pieces of a lyric get lost in translation. As a pair, the two songs form a whole which is unforgettable, both amusing and thought provoking. Like the best folk music, you’re sure to want to play them for others so you can get them into the discussion.
Man Of Many Moons is a treat for folk music listeners of all ages, an album which is as rewarding to hear the tenth time as the first, chock full of memorable melodies and lyrical flourishes. As a whole it speaks as a product of its time, a modern folk album which can still stand with the classics of the genre. Sing Out magazine called Schmidt a force of nature, and if you don’t buy that, give this album a listen.
Austin, Texas’s Band of Heathens really has the quintessential alt-country sound, and they deserve to find an audience beyond the confines of central Texas. Featuring three principal songwriters (Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist), the band has gained a great deal of acclaim in the region, including a 2009 nomination for “New Emerging Artist” from the Americana Music Association. Their upcoming third studio album, Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son, is due out later this year. Here’s hoping it makes a bigger national wave than their past material, because they deserve to be household names.
Check the band’s performance of “L.A. County Blues” on Austin City Limits:
And hear them talk about the new album, courtesy of The Texas Music Scene:
If you get to go to Austin and check out James McMurtry and the Heartless Bastards play a midnight set at The Continental Club on Wednesday nights, you may get to see this legend, Jon Dee Graham, opening for him. (I haven’t had the chance, being that I’m blind as a bat, don’t drive none, and had the misfortune of not landing in a music city like Austin post-College, but there’s always the bucket list.)
As for this song, “Not Beautifully Broken,” which is included live here with “Giliad” as well, I think Graham sums the tone up just fine:
“This song is purely fiction, let’s get that out of the way right now. Fictional character has a fictional … let’s call it a breakdown … has to go away to a fictional “institution,” for a fictionally-mandated 110 days, with a fictional happy ending.”
Doesn’t that sound like a fun piece of “fiction”? I’m starting to sense a theme building in today’s posts
Following the trail from Railroad Earth, I wandered through the YouTube highways and stumbled on this great live version of “Peter Pan,” recorded as part of the Music Fog showcase at Threadgill’s WHQ in Austin, Texas, Filmed during SXSW 2010. This video links to an awesome McMurtry list which should keep you entertained if you dare sit and listen to the whole thing, courtesy of Kink Radio.
The song is one of his best straightforward character sketches — Lyrics below as usual!
~ ~ ~
Beer cans to the ceiling
ashtray on the floor
laundry on the sofa
need I say more
I walked out with my hair wet
I caught one awful cold
should have been more careful
should have done like I was told
I can’t believe it
how could it be
just like you said could happen
so it did to me
Just when I might have seen the light of day
I crossed my eyes ’til they stayed that way
I keep my distance
as best I can
living out my time here in Never Never land
I can’t grow up
’cause I’m too old now
I guess I really did it this time mom
The boogie man came calling
I said I wasn’t home
he didn’t believe me
he wasn’t alone
he had my number
he got my goat
he bought my ticket
he paid off my note
and he left in a hurry
said he couldn’t stay
I guess he had his reasons
I’m not the one to say
Lets go chase tornadoes
just me and you
you don’t often catch ‘em
but man when you do
just take my catch rope
and crawl out on the wing
we won’t come down ’till we own that thing
then we’ll sit out on the front porch
quiet as a mouse
one last time before they close on the house