Danny Schmidt

Man of Many Moons

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AllMusic Review by

Let's establish one thing right at the outset: Danny Schmidt is an extremely gifted songwriter. He may even be too gifted for his own good. Being a skilled songsmith in the intensely lyrical acoustic-balladeer mode can sometimes be a burden as much as an asset when it comes to making records. The songs themselves quite rightly become the most important thing on a record, not the production, not even the performance, as crucial as these may be in their own right. When your stock in trade is carefully crafted combinations of words and melody, most often delivered in a sparse, or even solo setting, finding just the right way to put them across on an album becomes a tricky endeavor. Many go overboard with overdubs, drowning the song in the process. Occasionally, some will try to present their songs on record exactly as they're done live, but that seldom seems to work. So what's a skilled, savvy songwriter like Schmidt to shoot for but something in between? To that end, he bases the tunes on Man of Many Moons around his own voice and guitar, adding a bit of bass, a second acoustic guitar, and some vocal harmonies, and that's pretty much it. On the face of it, this would seem to be an effective strategy, leaving plenty of room for a batch of songs full of arresting imagery and an abundance of invention. So what's missing? Why doesn't Man of Many Moons connect the way it should, given the quality of the songs and the sensible production approach? Maybe it's the singing, which is sometimes a tad too tender and tremulous, not matching up to the visceral quality of the lyrics and their hard-hitting, evocative turns. Maybe it's the occasional missteps that would stall the progress of any album, like an unnecessary cover of Bob Dylan's "Buckets of Rain" (does Schmidt actually presume to bring something new to the tune, or is the cover simply an exercise in indulgence?), and the overlong "Almost Round the World," telling a tale whose impact doesn't justify its six-minute length. All the aforementioned elements aren't enough to sink songs as strong as the album's title track, "On Abundance," "Guilty by Association Blues," or "I've Mostly Watched," but it does keep them from commanding the record the way they should. It's important to remember, though, that in a lesser songwriter, none of this would matter: it's Schmidt's own gift that renders such slopes slippery, and in the end, anyone with an appetite for resonant, lyrical songcraft should still soak up Man of Many Moons and seek out its aforementioned charms.

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