"Most of the songs on the album had been orphaned at some point in their lifetimes. They span the course of seven years… and at some point, each had been deemed too far askew to fit neatly side-by-side alongside its peers… and each was consequently pared from the album of the era on which it might rightly have belonged." Danny Schmidt (hi-jacked from his website)
Twelve songs, temporarily tossed aside and lost… Thank God it was temporarily, because like Little Bo Peep, Schmidt has gathered them together for this project which might be, oddly enough, his most accessible and successful album to-date. Certainly the most accessible because all twelve songs, as different as they are, have qualities which weave them together. Call it the Schmidt factor, for he has an ability to reach deep. Really deep. Even on the lightest of the twelve, Schmidt inserts a huge part of himself into his music. Anyone with ears can hear it. Anyone with heart can feel it. Twelve lost songs? Not any longer.
Songwriting is a tricky game. If you are active, ideas constantly flood the body and flow from the brain to the fingers, spurred by the heart. Constantly. And with limited ability to record, of course some must be laid aside for one reason or another. It is just plain hard, though to believe that even one of these did not make the cut first time around.
Danny Schmidt corrects that here and Danny Schmidt is no dummy. When it came time to sequence Little Grey Sheep, he picked the one track from a total 'nother dimension to open the album. Leaves Are Burning, a musical sledgehammer to the psyche, ropes and drags you through Schmidt's own psyche which at the time had roped and was dragging him through… life, I guess. While finger picking on the dark side sets the mood, Schmidt's slightly warbled voice and co-producer/guitarist Paul Curreri's unearthly guitar and effects take it into the ethereal unknown, perfect for Joia Wood's searing, almost manic vocals. Laid one atop the other, the effect is downright spine-tingling.
Two tracks later, Schmidt takes Go Ugly Early into early Neil Young territory, the light and plodding shuffle riding simple banjo and pedal steel into the country. The verse, especially, captures that Young-laden feel, vocal harmonies full yet sparse. Listen to this, you get dust on your boots.
Around the Waist is country without the country, having a melody which makes genre moot. Schmidt's exceptionally emotional vocals, Joia Wood's absolutely beautiful harmony and an absolutely superb production job practically welds it to the spirit. This song, simple as it is, is in the "Man, that was great" category.
There is a story behind Emigrant, MT just as there is behind every song on the album (he explains each song on his website under "Thematic Overview"). It has to be hard to sit under the Blue Sky and not be moved. Schmidt was and this, a straight folk tribute, is the result. It is reminiscent of the best of the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Post and Dave Carter.
Schmidt wrote Song for Judy & Bridget for Judy and Bridget and it is as true a love ballad as there is. Judy and Bridget, if you read this, I know you understand. Just so you know, if I didn't before hearing this song, I do now.
I could go on and on, but let's just say that Little Grey Sheep is the kind of album one can't toss aside. It is a truly good and maybe great album, and not just because Schmidt wrote a raft of great songs. Indeed, if there be a more communal album in all of Charlottesville (or the world), where this was recorded, this is it. Each and every person involved made this album a real step above: Paul Curreri (it wouldn't hurt to check out his albums, too); Joia Wood (who hopefully is working on a studio album as this is written—what a voice!); Devon Sproule (More than a musician, Devon brings a whole 'nother dimension to everything she touches, no matter how slight); and those of whom I know little except the topnotch job they did on the album (Randall Pharr, Spencer Lathrop, Matty Metcalfe, Jeff Romano, Sara Read and Colin Brooks).
Danny Schmidt has been working on a new album since before the work on Little Grey Sheep even began. No doubt it will be another outstanding effort. In the meantime, I will content myself with the handful of Schmidt albums at my disposal, of which the least is hardly Little Grey Sheep. Do yourself a favor and do the same. He's well worth it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Website design by David N. Pyles