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Album Review

instead the forest rose to sing
(Red House Records)

Danny Schmidt almost hung it up a few years ago. Returning to hometown Austin from Charlottesville, he took a one-two punch in the way of a lost job and serious health problems. The situation would have stopped most of us dead in our tracks, health failing and debt escalating, but Danny is not most of us. Born of positive attitude and belief in himself, he turned bad to good through sweat and toil. He had gained a reputation as a standup guy and a stellar musician and songwriter, he had spent as much time promoting his friends and colleagues as he did himself and when they saw him backed up against the wall, they rallied. So did Danny. And damned if things didn't begin to get better.

He worked his way through his health crisis by writing songs and when there were enough, planned an album. He called many of his friends, most notably pal Paul Curreri, and scheduled a return to Charlottesville where recording sessions were arranged. The resulting album, Little Grey Sheep (the cover alone is worth price of admission), put wheels under Danny Schmidt and even before it hit the streets, another album was in the works. The people at Red House Records liked what they had heard and jumped on board for the new one, recently released and titled Instead the Forest Rose to Sing. Red House jumped on just in time. It's a good one. Or should I say it's another good one.

Danny is what you might call a folkie, but you have to understand that that barely covers what he does. The man writes really good and sometimes great songs and sings them with heart and a unique style. I know. There are plenty out there like that. Well, not exactly. You see, Danny has this uncanny ability to take an idea and transform it into mental cinema, characters and scenes appearing right before your eyes. You not only see but feel Grandpa's loneliness (and emptiness) as time passes him by (Grampa Built Bridges), see the irony of being turned in for bank robbery by the lady love you robbed it for (Two Timing Bank Robber's Lament), live the dance and feel the love of life in Swing Me Down (the chorus is absolute melted butter the way the voices blend over the light shuffling barn dance nuance), and fear the subject of Firestorm, a story of rage controlled until...

Schmidt can sing, his voice wrapping around a tune and holding it close. He can write, weaving words into a kind of modern folklore long forgotten. He can play, though he prefers others more adept to handle much of the load in his search for excellence. But what he does best, as mentioned earlier, is feel. You don't write and perform songs this good without feeling them deeply. Bottom line: In a world packed with musician as craftsmen, Danny Schmidt is an artist. You'll know what I mean when you hear him.

A side note: Danny is one of those rare individuals able to articulate views of the world without alienation or confusion. RockandReprise caught him on a particularly good day and gained permission to print a few of his gems of wisdom. If you want some insight into the world of the indie musician, we suggest you read Danny Schmidt: The Interview.

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