|Danny Schmidt — Owls (May 19, 2015)|
Danny Schmidt — Owls (May 19, 2015)♠ Danny Schmidt is one hell of a songwriter. Sure, he has a good voice and plays a mean guitar too, but few write like he does. The very first song I ever heard by him, “Leaves Are Burning,” knocked my socks off. I've pretty much been sockless since, at least when he releases an album.
♠ He does it with his fingerpicking. With the slight warble in his voice when he emotes. With his varying attitudes. Mostly, though, he does it with his songs. © Danny Schmidt & Carrie Elkin
Birth name: Danny Schmidt
Born: October 7, 1970, Austin, Texas, US
Location: Austin, Texas
Album release: May 19, 2015
Record Label: Live Once Records
Genre: Alternative, Folk, Acoustic, Americana
01. Girl With Lantern Eyes 5:17
02. Guns & the Crazy Ones 3:43
03. Soon the Earth Shall Swallow 6:02
04. Faith Will Always Rise 3:29
05. Bad Year for Cane 3:23
06. Looks Like God 3:32
07. Cries of Shadows 3:47
08. All the More to Wonder 3:32
09. Cry On the Flowers 4:46
10. Paper Cranes 3:58
11. Wings of No Restraint 4:28
▪ Produced by David Goodrich
▪ Engineered by Keith Gary
▪ Danny Schmidt — vocals & guitar
▪ David Goodrich — electric guitars
▪ Lloyd Maines — lap steel guitar
▪ Mike Meadows — drums
▪ Andrew Pressman — bass
▪ Keith Gary — piano
▪ Carrie Elkin — harmony vocals
▪ Daniel Thomas Phipps — harmony vocals
▪ Ali Holder — harmony vocals♠ Schmidt looks outside himself, impelled by big questions whose answers he will neither provide nor find. The music is often lovely, the lyrics at times as inscrutable (“The slurry of a long and broken nose…”) as the problems Schmidt confronts with dense, daring wordsmithing layering irony upon irony. The allegorical “Girl with Lantern Eyes” opens, announcing a sonic shift for Schmidt with a long middle–eastern influenced guitar and percussion intro. “The Guns and the Crazy Ones,” recognizes the insanity of our country’s “every day… display / Of cannons come loose” with a Band reminiscent sound. “Soon the Earth Shall Swallow,” comes on with the thunder of bass and drums to link hydraulic fracturing, the degradation of the ocean, GMO crops, and mass incarceration. The haunting “Bad Year for the Cane,” tells the Job–like story of the farmer who lost his arm and his wife. He endures though, “…led by a promise that the heart can mend.” A sunset inspires “Looks Like God” and questions about reconciling what’s broken and what’s beautiful. Delicate lead prettifies the lovely “Cries of Shadows,” restating the melody between verses. “Paper Cranes” brings on the ominous with a chilling electric guitar sound. “Wings of No Restraint” closes with a Daedulus inspired story, a full out rockin’ band, and a strong chorus. The world Schmidt depicts is serious stuff, his trademark humor largely absent. But you will find comfort in the beauty of the songs and the beauty in the mysteries.1. Girl With Lantern Eyes
▪ This song is a sequel to Dark–Eyed Prince from the Parables & Primes record. It continues the tale of a poor skittish romantic who keeps trying to reach out into the world and connect, only to be driven back into a castle of solitude by his own darker demons. There were hints in that first song that he knew the demons actually lived in the shadows of that castle, and some hope that through the illuminating eyes of some compassionate lover, he might be able to one day meet those demons’ glares, and make some kind of peace with them. Well, god bless him, he may have found just the right love. I imagine them, in the end, fighting alongside one another, against each other’s demons, with trashcan lid shields and bucket helmets. But at least they’re not running.
♠ Like I’ve said about some previous releases, I don’t start off with a thematic concept and build a record from there. I write the songs as they come to me, and as the production unfolds, and as I have time to reflect on what common threads run throughout the songs, as a collection, themes begin to emerge.
♠ So, as I was recording the songs that were to become the Owls album, I realized that many of them had taken on a sort of mystical tone. They asked existential questions, and they told stories of personal discovery, growth and transformation. But they did so in symbols and metaphors more than in actuals and specifics.
♠ And so, as I thought about the songs together in one unit, I started picturing them as a row of owls, perched overhead, side–by–side on a branch, somewhat ethereal in their nature, quietly and knowingly observing us go about the process of figuring out our lives. Simpathetic, but aloof. Almost like grown–ups watching a child fumble through trying to put a puzzle together. So I called the album, Owls.
♠ The songs, individually, deal with the puzzles of Relationship . . . our relationship with ourselves and with our lives, our relationship with others, and our relationship with the earth . . . and they deal with the puzzles of Identity and Transformation, and our ever–shifting sense of ourselves in the mirror of ever–changing circumstances. I’ll speak more to the songs, individually, below.
♠ I don’t know, specifically, why these songs came at this time. Maybe because I’m getting older and entering “middle age,” and because after you’ve commited a certain significant chunk of your life to an endeavor, you start to ask if it was worth it, and if it has any real value. Maybe because I got married, and the process of merging your life with another person is one of not just learning who they are, but learning who you are through them. I don’t know, honestly. I just know that most of the characters in these songs are going through some sort of self–evaluation and self–transformation, for better or for worse.
♠ I hope you enjoy the album, and I hope you’re able to spend some time absorbing this new batch of songs. I think they have more layers than any I've written since the Parables & Primes batch from almost a decade ago.
BY FRANK GUTCH JR., APRIL 25, 2015
|Danny Schmidt — Owls (May 19, 2015)|