Release Date: Nov 11, 2008
Record label: Secretly Canadian
The story of Daniel Smith -- at least in thumbnail form as written by his famous fan, the novelist Rick Moody -- is well known to the point of obscure legend. What is more important than the trappings of hip and kitsch is that this mercurial Christian has consistently made childlike, poetic genre-defying music for almost ten years and under just as many monikers. He has managed to remain consistently inspired and worth a listen.
The music of Daniel Smith, recorded with myriad relatives and friends (among them Sufjan Stevens), makes for strikingly uneasy listening. The chief hurdle for most people is his voice, which can sound as enticing as nails scraping down a blackboard. Throw in his wayward, clanging, jittery approach to song structure and the Christian bent of his lyrics, and it seems a wonder that Smith has acquired more than four fans in his 15-year career.
For the uninitiated, it hardly matters whether their introduction to the Danielson Famile comes in the form of a retrospective, a studio recording, a film, or in concert. All it really takes is a few minutes in the shrieking presence of Ringmaster Daniel Smith's alternately tender, ferocious and undeniably forward-thinking Christian post-punk/alternative folk collective for one to figure out whether or not they have the patience to commit to the full circus or not. To call the songs that inhabit the two-disc Trying Hartz anthology "outsider music" is doing the term a disservice.