Music

Danny Schmidt: Instead the Forest Rose to Sing

The connection between folk music, work songs, and the evil of greedy capitalists has been a 20th century trope. But this Texan lives in the 21st century.


Danny Schmidt

Instead the Forest Rose to Sing

Label: Red House
US Release Date: 2009-03-10
UK Release Date: 2009-03-09
Amazon
iTunes

Danny Schmidt says that his new collection of songs concerns the value of money and work and its relation to the meaning of wealth. That’s a heavy topic for a folk artist, but not an unusual one. The connection between folk music, work songs and the evil of greedy capitalists has been a 20th century trope.

But this Texan lives in the 21st century and understands the relationship is not so simple. Things have become, well, surreal. Who’s to praise and who’s to blame is not so clear. If everything has gone south, is it the southerners -- you know, those below the border -- who are to blame? Or maybe it’s those Eastern bankers? Or how about ourselves, who let the water and air get polluted as long as there was money to be made through hard labor? Schmidt doesn’t claim to know the answer. He just illuminates the problem and wonders why in “Southland Street”.

It’s that “Serpentine Cycle of Money” he tells us on the song of that name. Schmidt knows you can’t buy love for dollars, but it is amazing what you can purchase. “So wash the sheets in baby tears / And paint the grapes in virgin’s blood” he eloquently sings. People will do or sell anything to survive. The world is a hard place.

Of course Schmidt acknowledges that most people understand money isn’t everything. You may need it to survive, but you need more than that. He offers paeans and platitudes to that notion, saying “You’re better off broke with soup in your belly / Than sitting there hungry around a pot of gold” as he sings on the opening track, “Better Off Broke”. But these moments are the less interesting parts of the record, perhaps because they are not very profound thoughts. The Austin singer songwriter is best when he’s raising conundrums and pointing out our weaknesses more than when he’s pointing out what we already know.

The deepest value we share as human beings, Schmidt suggests, is that we share a love and concern for each other. That goes beyond money or enlightened self-interest, and is often beyond our control. On “Firestorm” he says that he used to rage against greedy club owners, bureaucrats, and those that did him wrong, but he’s calmer now. His love for another has opened his eyes to a kinder view of humanity. That is, unless you mess with the one for which he cares. Then you better watch out, buddy, because that will cause him to explode. Schmidt’s aware of the irony and the song trades on that conceit.

The songs on Instead The Forest Rose to Sing suggest that money can’t buy everything, but comes damn close to it. To counteract this and maintain our humanity, we need to pay attention to the natural world and hold close those we love. That’s a simple lesson most people already comprehend. Schmidt’s songs work best when he stops preaching and simply expresses the complex problems that present themselves when we try to maintain ourselves in the modern world.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.