David Karsten Daniels
Sharp Teeth begins with perhaps the most satisfying and soothing album introduction I’ve heard this year. Built around the vocal refrain of “there is a feeling you just can’t explain/there is a joy that you can’t contain,” a simple acoustic melody and shuffling beat are lifted toward the heavens on a tower of soaring strings. With this precedent set, Daniels has his work cut out for him. Thankfully he succeeds on nearly every level. Tracks like “Scripts” and “Beast” feel slightly naked and aimless in their opening minutes before Daniels and his guest players gather together enough errant sound and melody to give the listener an unexpected but exquisite punch.
Thanks to tracks like “Jesus and the Devil,” a unique spin on religion and faith sung in a croaky tenor, comparisons with Will Oldham are unavoidable and not entirely unfounded, but Daniels tempers his humble Ozarkian diction with powerfully assertive vocals. It’s as if Oldham were somehow possessed by the ghost of Jeff Buckley. What links Daniels and Oldham most strongly is their ability to excel with the basest structures of song. Aside from the brilliant opener, the disc’s best track is its parting shot, “We Go Right On.” Stepping up from humble beginnings and quietly massing sound before reaching the determined and unstoppable refrain, it might not be overwhelmingly positive in content, but it certainly is in delivery. And with most large-scale vocal folk music being Sufjan-ized to feel like a grade school history pageant, it’s nice to hear some that has the still has the power to touch listeners on a personal level.
Buhanan Records: www.buhananrecords.com