Danny Schmidt & Carrie Elkin reviews   Leave a comment

Carrie Elkin Call It My Garden and Danny Schmidt Man of Many Moons

both Red House Records

[FYI- I rewrote the Elkin portion of the review for Country Standard Time, and the edited version of that is up at http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=4657]

An Austin-based couple, Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin have each just released an outstanding album of contemporary folk music. Each guests on the others’ album and the recordings are quite complementary while being completely independent.

Recorded in Sam Baker’s Austin living room, Call It My Garden begins with Elkin’s light-hearted giggle, setting the scene for an album of introspective, relationship-based, and ultimately hopeful folk-roots. A personal meditation minus self-centered, maudlin angst that could be unwieldy, the songs of Call It My Garden are rife with nostalgia, change, and opportunity, much realized but some regretful. 

Reminiscent of (a non-jaded) Lynn Miles, Elkin has crafted an album that is radio-friendly and deeply personal. “Jesse Likes Birds” blend elements of lullaby with boisterous kitchen-jam frenzy. More indicative is “The Things We’re Afraid Of”; sung from a male perspective, Elkin inhabits her protagonist with honesty and intuition.

Recommended if one enjoys Dala, Nanci Griffith, and Dar Williams, whose “Iowa” is the album sole non-original.

Danny Schmidt has been at the cult-favourite, singer-songwriter game longer than Elkin, delivering well-received if under-heard albums for a decade.

Wise, Schmidt understands that the role of the songwriter is to give voice to the thoughts many of us are hesitant to speak, and he does so throughout Man of Many Moon’s 11 songs. “Guilty by Association Blues” and the song it inspired, “Almost Around the World” are the album’s centerpieces, revealing the strange world of the songwriter as few songs do.

Playing what sounds like finger-picked guitar, Schmidt’s songs are spacious with sparse instrumentation framing his vocals. Inhabiting a vocal domain near John Gorka while evoking the mystery of Greg Brown, Schmidt has the ability- like those songwriters- to cut to the core of issues utilizing only a handful of words.

“On Abundance” and “I’ve Mostly Watched” are songs that may make listeners uncomfortable as Schmidt gently challenges while considering his own inadequacies.

As was 2009’s Instead the Forest Rose to Sing, Man of Many Moons is destined to be one of this year’s most welcome folk albums.

Recommended for those who appreciate Chuck Brodsky and Steve Forbert.


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