There’s a quality—an easygoing, lyrical storytelling manner that eschews stridency or pretension—that all folksingers strive for and few attain. But Danny Schmidt has it in abundance: With seductive simplicity, his music demands your attention. Schmidt is a native Austinite who honed his craft amid the music scene in Charlottesville, Virginia, yet despite heaps of notable critical praise and a 2007 New Folk Award from the Kerrville Folk Festival, he remains a bit below the radar. His fifth album, Little Grey Sheep (Waterbug), might manage to alter his coordinates: This is a sparse yet mature and immensely enjoyable piece of work. Songs like “California’s on Fire” and “Adios to Tejasito” possess a John Prine–like aw-shucks appeal—even if their tone is darker—and as the mood changes from song to song, the musicality of Sheep unifies the material. Some folk purists will likely wish the songs plumbed deeper, but it’s precisely his lack of overreaching that keeps Schmidt from sounding a false note.
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