Damn if I understand what all the excitement over singer-songwriter-guitarist Danny Schmidt is about. He’s highly touted from here to there and back, including love-letter reviews at major publications, as an artist of singular consequence. Can’t prove it by me. Not with his album Man of Many Moons (Red House Records) as evidence.
Man of Many Moons, woefully pedestrian fare, comes across as the yield of just one more self-conscious pretender to the timeless legacy of roots folk music. A latter-day Dan Fogelberg, Schmidt sings with the same weak-kneed head-voice, leaning on cloying, sophomoric lyrics to approximate a touching experience of the heart and mind. Point in case, “Houses Sing.” His nondescript vocal intones, to a paint-by-numbers melody straight out of the Folksongs 101 catalog, “There’s signs in all the yards with a price tag and a plea/ Can’t you hear them houses sing/ Can’t you hear them houses sing/ And I can see my daughter swinging in the shade of every tree/ Can’t you hear them houses sing/ Can’t you hear them houses sing/ And I can move a mountain when the mountain moves in me/ And I can hear them houses sing, I can hear them houses sing.”
If that isn’t lame enough, there’s “Little White Angels” with “Little white angels, little white pills/ Free her from freedom and the burden of will/ Wash clean the sparrows that lie dead on her sill/ And watch them all come alive in the end.” And the trite title number’s “Every morning shines a brand new light/ A brand new light, yes a brand new light/ Every morning shines a brand new light/ It’s a whole new day somehow”; the refrain for which goes, “But right now I’ve got it all worked out/ I’ve got it all worked out, yes, it’s all worked out / Right now I’ve got it all worked out/ I’ve got it all worked out right now.” Not to mention the just plain silly idea that these words are sung with feeling.
Colluding with Danny Schmidt, helping to perpetrate this faux contribution to the venerable canon of rustic Americana are Will Sexton (bass and guitar), Carrie Elkin and Raina Rose (backing vocals), Ray Bonneville (harp), and Keith Gary (piano). Gary also engineered and, with Schmidt, co-produced.
All said, Man of Many Moons takes up time and space that would be much better spent on an artist of authenticity.