Danny Schmidt. Man of Many Moons.

Another album from Red House Records who are building up an impressive artist roster, Danny Schmidt is another Austin based songwriter who is touring the UK later this month. With fellow label artist Carrie Elkin and Raina Rose assisting on harmony vocals this is a fine, laid back acoustic stroll. Aided and abetted on occasion by Will sexton on bass and guitar, Ray Bonneville on harmonica and Keith Gary on piano the overall feel is limpid and relaxed with Schmidt’s vocals soothing in the main. For a writer who has penned ten of the eleven songs on show it might be considered disheartening for one to latch on to the only cover, a version of Dylan’s Buckets Of Rain initially. However it has to be said that this reading is sublime indeed. The weary delivery with some fine acoustic guitar interplay and a warm and sympathetic bass sets this up as one of the best Dylan covers I’ve heard, simply superb.
While Schmidt describes the album as a struggle “around the process of making peace with Commitment” (see his webpage for his detailed notes on the album and the lyrics) and speaks of the moon as a metaphor, always changing but always there, the listener can simply wallow in some fine meditations such as Guilty By Association Blues which starts out like a talking blues before going into a fantasy about capitalism (I think) and Almost Round The World which actually talks about the confusion raised by the previous song. When its references to parrots and pigs were taken up wrongly by animal rights activists he describes the effect this had on him and his family. Both are delivered in a mellifluous manner and invite repeated listening.
Overall this is an album that can induce a sense of calm, an opportunity to listen to some lyrics that merit some thought. The sprightly Ragtime Ragtime Blues slightly upsets the mood but other than that its a fine listen.
Schmidt plays in the UK at the end of June and the beginning of July including a date in Glasgow at Lauries Acoustic Music Bar on 5th July. I bet there won’t be a queue outside so go along and wallow in his moonshine.Other dates on his webpage

Almost Around The World

Carrie Elkin. Call It My Garden

Carrie Elkin is an Austin, Texas based musician who is in danger of being overwhelmed by her connections. This album, her fourth was recorded in Sam Baker’s house during the Kerrville folk festival last year. Fellow festival performers accordingly appear on the album including A. J. Roach, Raina Rose and Robbie Hecht. In addition Baker himself pops up on vocals here and there and the album was produced by Colin Brooks of The Band of Heathens who also provides most of the fine lap steel and Dobro that wind throughout the songs. The overall result is a fine and appealing example of current folky Americana which should appeal to anyone interested in Nanci Griffith, Iris DeMent or Laura Cantrell and one that reflects the apparently relaxed atmosphere it was recorded in. From the laughter that opens Jesse Likes Birds to the closing chuckle at the end of the album the artists seem to be having a ball. Jesse Likes Birds opens the set, loosely based on the old Mockingbird song it’s taken at a fair clip with banjos flailing and fine ramshackle backing vocals that reflect the “live” ambience of the recording. This live sound remains throughout giving the album an attractive rough edge. The sunny disposition of the first song however gives way to weightier concerns with a darker edge for the most part delving into country blues or funereal laments (Lift up the Anchor). Elkin looks at the bleaker side of life with Shots Ring Out, a short tale of murder given a stark reading while Guilty Hands is a gospel stomp that seems to be about religious fervor and which has some excellent ensemble playing. With a tender tribute to Sam Baker (Dear Sam, with Baker joining in on vocals) and a rousing finale in Edge of the World which pumps and wheezes like an old fashioned church hymn given a Tom Waits twist this is a fine country tinged album
Elkin is touring the UK (or at least England and Wales) throughout April, dates on her website

Raina Rose. When May Came.

Fourth release from this songwriter from Portland, Oregon, this took some time to come to terms with. Initially it seemed to be a fairly lightweight confection very much in the general female singer/songwriter mode. Repeated listening (one in particular, late at night with some wine to accompany it )offered a greater insight into what is a warm, embracing and comforting album.
The primary problem here was the jauntier songs including the opener, Sun Comes Back which is pleasant but innocuous and Desdemona which trots along at a brisk pace but failed to engage me. The meat of the album is in the slower songs which dominate the latter half of the album. Rose sounds more comfortable on these, her voice assumes a sultry tone missing in the more upbeat numbers. Stone Around my Neck is a particularly effective song with discontented rumblings creeping in on keyboards at one point reflecting the discontented state of the relationship she is singing about. The musicians (a select bunch of Austin players) excel on the following What Do You Bury which is sumptuous and beguiling on an obituary for a drunkard partner with a lyrical tour de force. The mood continues on Heart Broken Open with warm bass notes and a vulnerable vocal performance with great alliterative wordplay.
So overall a grower, an album to sink into, really rather nice.
Have a listen here