While many folksingers drape their work in mysticism, Austin’s Danny Schmidt is first and foremost a storyteller. He employs allegory, but more often than not his tales are just what they appear to be. The ten new songs on Instead the Forest Rose to Sing (Red House) nestle right in among an already impressive body of work. For good writers, the urge to dazzle with cleverness can be overwhelming. Schmidt is not impervious to that temptation; like his previous work, the new album develops several overarching themes a bit too ambitiously. Yet he’s also the rare artist who has the confidence to dial things back. His talent has led to lofty comparisons, some of which stick. The line “Grampa buried dignity when he got old” would seem at home on a Townes Van Zandt album, and Schmidt’s unvarnished honesty occasionally recalls Leonard Cohen. But Schmidt is neither of those men. In rockers and plaintive ballads, he sings about life celebrations and challenges, and often about himself. His plainspoken conversational style, inflected with emotion, commands attention.
From the April 2009 Issue Subscribe