on 5 February 2001
Lots of artists and comparisons will get tossed around when attempting to describe the magic of the Danielson Family, although nothing can accurately capture what they do until you hear it for yourself. The group was born out of Daniel Smith's senior thesis project at Rutgers University, which resulted in their debut album, "A Prayer For Every Hour," on Tooth & Nail Records. Daniel acts as the composer, lead singer, and plays acoustic guitar. Backing him up are his half-dozen or so siblings, ranging from percussionist Andrew (age 12 on this album) to keyboardist Chris (age 24 on this album). They appear on stage in white nurse-like uniforms, with sisters Rachel and Megan providing choreographed hand movements to the songs (think Diana Ross & the Supremes). Daniel's quirky songwriting and the family teamwork may prompt references to the Shaggs, but musically the Famile is far more accomplished. Being devout Christians, there are religious undercurrents to every track. Make no mistake, though, because these folks are miles from the stuff that comes to mind whenever you hear the words 'contemporary Christian music.' Their sound lies closer to the Pixies or They Might Be Giants. Daniel regularly sings his unique lyrics in a shocking falsetto that sometimes recalls Black Francis, Jad Fair, and Daniel Johnston. The band is now on the Secretly Canadian label, and this disc is a re-issue of the original 1997 Tooth & Nail release. Produced by Kramer (of Shimmy Disc fame), this remarkable effort displays a range of instruments from banjo and bells to flutes and synthesizers. Highlights include "Jersey Loverboy," "Flesh Thang," "A No No," and the sublime "Smooth Death." The twelve tracks are some of the most original takes on popular music I've come across in the last few years, and this infectious oddity of an album will draw you in, regardless of your spiritual faith. This CD was followed by the impressive "Tri-Danielson" opus, consisiting of separately released 'Alpha' and 'Omega' discs.