Saturday, March 28, 2009

instead the forest rose to sing

All week long I’ve been listening to Danny Schmidt’s new CD, instead the forest rose to sing, growing more amazed with each listen. I have long admired Schmidt’s wordcraft and musicianship; I am surprised at how much better both are on this collection of songs. Nobody I know turns a phrase or tells a story like Danny and he always does it to some very fine meter. Not only that, on instead the forest rose to sing, he is accompanied by a fine group of musicians and strong production. Carrie Elkins adds sharp edged back up vocals—and a haunting end to the tale of greed in “Serpentine Cycle of Money”.

Each song is a gem and the collection offers varied tempos and feel. There’s not a ringer in the bunch. “Southland Street”, which is about as well stated summary of America’s economic fortunes as you will find in any media, shows Schmidt at his best—telling a genuine tale with well-tailored words and rhymes, all sung with a knowing and sly voice; the chorus says it all:

Hammer fall, strike the steel and bend the beat
They had it all till it all went headin’ south.

“Firestorm” is as dark and smoldering as anything by Richard Thompson. “Grampa Built Bridges” reminds me of John Prine, not a copy but a grandson understanding his forebear. Like Jackson Browne, Schmidt recognizes mortality early in life. Regardless, life will be lived and savored. “Swing Me Down” celebrates the many women—"the girl that cleans you up and the girl that broke ya...the girl the that tells you what and the girl that asks ya”—in a man’s (his own?)life:

I can’t promise it’s a blessing but I swear it’s not a curse,
To love so much it must make a heart to burst.

instead the forest rose to sing is as good as, probably better than, any other music that will be released in 2009. Danny Schmidt’s always strong guitar and voice blend well with violin, piano harmonica, cello, accordion, mandolin in addition to guitar bass and drum, all produced with deftnes. I hear a man of self-understanding and hard-learned wisdom, one who’s made mistakes and may well do so again but is still able to take life for what it is and what he can make of it.

Neither message nor music interferes with each other. Together, they are a fine listening experience.



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