Lets be blunt. Artists have it pretty fucking rough these days. Long in the past are the days of constant rotation of a record. Contemporary, unsigned songwriters…the ones scraping by to go on tour or finish that next album are set certain expectations in terms of record cycles. Release a record every 12-18 months or the fan base may very well forget about you. Tour through the same areas every couple weeks or months to establish routes and bases. Do something to stand out above the rest of folky types slinging J45s and singing about their sadness. Its a rough world out there for a songwriter.
I remember sitting down at my parents CD player in the living room, just below the TV with headphones and listening to Harvest and Nashville Skyline on repeat for years. It was a formidable time in my life as someone who wanted to write songs and Neil and Bob did a number on my young mind and heart. I hate to say it seems those days are gone and the latest and greatest is what often defines newer artists. We live in a world where everything is expected right now and if you don’t deliver in that way the general public may not latch on to what you have to say. I am, however, happy to say that every so often a record comes along that still gives me that “I need to keep listening to this” feeling and drive. Zach Schmidt released his debut full length record just over a year ago this week and it still continues to be an album I put on whether I’m out in the woodshop, putting in hours at the day job or going for a drive through the hills. It has staying power.
Schmidt’s ability to weave introspection and heart with songs that make you want to dance is uncanny. I’d be hard pressed to mention another 3 or 4 artists of albums I have heard in the past year that have hit me as hard as his did. It’s just fucking great. Songs like “Wendy” and the title track should be classics (even in their infancy of being out in the world). Or the genuine nature of the closing track “All is Well”. The delivery of each line cutting like sharp, glistening steel and the attitude and grit of the songs sung over the sweeping cry of the pedal steel…well, if that doesn’t make you feel something then I am not sure there is much hope for you.
my sister she prays to the phone everyday / to comfort my unguided soul
my grandmother she lays, in a bed thats well made / as the nurse keeps her safe from the cold
my mother she cries, wipes tears from her eyes / she pictures her kids so far away
my daddy he walks, laughs and he coughs / sips tea as his memory fades
and they say “sleep tight and say your prayers” / as my mind tends to wander to places they’d never dare
and they say “sleep tight and all is well” / is this heaven or hell, its getting harder to tell
but I’m getting there
I suppose this isn’t so much of a re-review of a record I have already praised more than most, but a passionate reminder that when something comes along that really grabs you, something that for whatever reason is just better than so much else of what is diluting what we call “art” in this day and age, you should hold it close and keep it there. There is still brilliant music being made and it isn’t all that hard to dig through the rubble to find that diamond in the rough. That record or song may just be what drives the next generation to pick up a guitar or a pen and start writing.
Now y’all go listen to some Zach Schmidt. It’ll do you some good.