New friends: Schmidt spreads word on locals

Nirvana hit when I was first starting to truly get interested in music, and one of the many things that I thank the late frontman Kurt Cobain for was his continuous championing of bands he respected. In his words, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a Pixies rip-off, the Vaselines were listed too continuously in the group’s tour bus during the early days and covered on Nirvana’s Incesticide album, and the Melvins were friends and mentors. These bands and a host of recommended others made up the roots of my musical collection, and the influences and sensibilities I absorbed during those formative years still reverberate today.
Local folk musician Danny Schmidt is trying a similar tactic, inviting what he calls “the best songwriters I’ve met in my travels and helping to introduce them to the audience here.” I suspect that few of Schmidt’s fellow performers will suddenly take off to international fame because of his recommendation, but spreading the word is one way people on the folk music scene get famous, and Charlottesville now seems to be one of the places that folk and home-grown acts go to help do just that.
With a lived-in voice some might describe as a higher-pitched Bruce Springsteen or a lower-pitched Neil Young, Schmidt is a folkie through and through. Years of practice are evident in his guitar finger-picking technique: in fact, I think he might be able to give local folkster Paul Curreri, whom I consider the best finger-picker around, a run for his money. Schmidt’s fingers dance over his guitar strings, producing notes that seem to twist and trill around their main chords.
Schmidt’s songwriting is some of the most mature I’ve heard from a local– you can tell Danny is keenly aware of the county-folk past he carries the standard for, as in the song “Blue Railroad Train” from his 2001 release, Enjoying the Fall. Picked guitar takes center stage on this track, and while doubled dobro spans the stereo spectrum, Schmidt sings an ode to Elvis, Hendrix, Joplin, and Cash in the metaphorical style he makes his habit (check them out at danny.schmidt.net).
Guitarist Jonathan Byrd, the artist Schmidt has chosen to “introduce” to Charlottesville audiences this time around, combines traditional roots music with blues and Celtic influences and a song-writing style heavily reliant on story telling (check them out at jonathanbyrd.com. He’s a damn good flat-picker, and he’s got Danny’s seal of approval– for folk-music fans in the area like me the second fact alone should be enough.

Danny Schmidt & Jonathan Byrd perform at the Live Arts Lab, August 30 at 8pm. $5.
Danny Schmidt & Jonathan Byrd perform at Rapunzel’s Coffee & Books August 31 at 8pm. $5.