Daniel Gannaway – Joined Like Notes

Daniel Gannaway - Joined Like NotesAnother EP-sized collection of tunes from indie singer/songwriter Daniel Gannaway, Joined Like Notes brings us a few numbers that either came after his last releases, Summer Storm and Heading For Country, or didn’t quite meet those two collections’ stylistic parameters. With no such limits placed on it (i.e. a “country” feel or every song involving ukelele), Joined Like Notes is a bit more free-form.

Songs such as “Mail Order Catalogue” and “A Babe In My Mama’s Arms” hearken back to his earlier works – sparse and yet atmospheric and moody – while “Hurricane Proof (Katrina)” and “Save Trestles (Sediment Flow)” take the opportunity to get topical. “Save Trestles” graced the artist’s MySpace page for quite a while before finally getting this release, and it’s aways been a catchy, toe-tapping number; getting the opportunity to hear it more clearly reveals it to be this CD’s standout. “A Slip In The Grey” and the title track are also stripped-down marvels of mood, with the former sporting some really interesting vocal work in the chorus. “Joined Like Notes” is more uplifting and mesmerizing in its own way.

4 out of 4Despite a thematic or stylistic angle to the songs on Joined Like Notes, it’s a nice breath of fresh air and a relaxing listen – even with the slightly soft-pedaled protest songs in (though they join a long tradition of folk protest songs in that regard). Highly recommended.

Order this CD

  1. A Babe In My Mama’s Arms (3:08)
  2. Hurricane Proof (Katrina) (4:09)
  3. Save Trestles (Sediment Flow) (3:09)
  4. Mail Order Catalogue (3:57)
  5. A Sip In The Grey (4:08)
  6. Joined Like Notes (4:09)

Released by: Daniel Gannaway
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 22:40

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Daniel Gannaway – Heading For Country

Daniel Gannaway - Heading For CountryWith his last EP, Summer Storm, Daniel Gannaway experimented with the ukelele as a dominant sound in his music; in a similar vein, his latest effort, Heading For Country, tries on some country shoes. This time the experiment isn’t so much with a specific instrument, but with some of the stylistic licks of American country music. Whatever he’s trying out sonically, it’s a credit to Gannaway’s musicianship and his ability as a songwriter that it never sounds anything less than genuine.

But with his background in folk rock, Gannaway feels like he’s edging toward home turf here, rather than stretching the envelope in an unexpected way. There might be a wistful harmonica here and there, or just a hint of a country “twang”, but it’s not much of a culture shock to those of us accustomed to his folkier style.

The highlights of the six-song EP are the two middle tracks, “Talk Yourself Up” and “Tiny Lights”. The former is a jaunty, positive little number, while the latter is a somber meditation on mortality. The first time I heard “Tiny Lights”, I earmarked it as being interesting for its melody; the next time I listened to it, I had just gone through an eight-day period which began with the birth of my son and ended with having to humanely put down a horse I’d had for nearly ten years. The lyrics jumped out at me on this second listen, and it’s a Gannaway classic right up there with “Chain”. Even if I can’t convince you that you’ll like the music, I’ll put it this way: any CD on which a song as good as “Tiny Lights” takes up 1/6 of the running time is great value for the money.

4 out of 4Not that any of the songs on here are anything to skip, mind you. Heading For Country makes it sound like Daniel Gannaway’s heading into untested territory, but for those of us who’ve been listening for a while, it’s more like a welcome homecoming. Very highly recommended.

Order this CD

  1. Move Along Now (3:39)
  2. Sorry To Say (2:31)
  3. Talk Yourself Up (2:45)
  4. Tiny Lights (3:28)
  5. Lazy Sundays (3:33)
  6. Sadly Don’t Think So (3:49)

Released by: Daniel Gannaway
Release date: 2007
Total running time: 19:45

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Daniel Gannaway – Summer Storm

Daniel Gannaway - Summer StormMany times, an album has been sparked by an artist’s discovery/rediscovery of a new or unusual instrument, and sometimes it’s worked (Todd Rundgren’s A Capella experiment of the human voice as every instrument) and just as many times it hasn’t. This is one of those times where it really works. New Zealand-based indie rocker Daniel Gannaway constructed this somewhere-between-EP-and-LP-length collection on a simple premise: every song would feature the ukelele in some fashion. (Yes, you read right, the ukelele.) Recorded in NZ and Hawaii, Summer Storm takes that premise, and the instrument itself, through several permutations, and it all manages to work, largely thanks to Gannaway’s reliable gifts in the songwriting department. Oddly enough, and this isn’t a crack about originality or the lack thereof, the ukelele’s role here reminded me of the shock value of the mandolin as a lead instrument in R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”. It’s front and center on every song, though the tone of the songs shifts from light and breezy (“Across The Sea”, which reminded me curiously of early, pre-electric Split Enz) to more straight-ahead rock (“Talking Story”, which was the song that made me think of the “Losing My Religion” comparison in the first place), with stops at several stylistic destinations in between. Someone’s clearly having fun putting rating: 4 out of 4the ukelele through its paces, though again, the songs are the key – they’re all good enough on their own, unusual arrangements or not, to stand up. But any preconceptions you have about the ukelele in terms of strumming away at old tropical island tunes may not stand up after you hear this one – in a few places, it’s some real rock ‘n’ roll. If you’re in the mood for something different, this is some good stuff.

Order this CD

  1. Across The Sea (2:28)
  2. In Heaven (2:56)
  3. Doug’s Little Love Shack (2:35)
  4. No Mall At Sharks Cove (2:49)
  5. Talking Story (2:24)
  6. Silver Lining (3:01)
  7. A Just Senator (2:53)
  8. Summer Storm (3:19)

Released by: Daniel Gannaway
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 22:25

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Daniel Gannaway – Darling One Year

Daniel Gannaway - Darling One YearIf you need evidence that there’s still a “wandering minstrel,” for lack of a better term, out there in the increasingly studio-bred world of music, allow me to present Daniel Gannaway as proof that the breed’s not extinct. The New Zealand-based musician logged studio time for his latest album in Ireland, Amsterdam, and NZ itself, all while working the road as a gigging musician. What has emerged from that work is Darling One Year, a tasty masterpiece of low-key mood that picks up the best stylistic experiments of his previous album and runs with them.

Of that previous album, I remember saying that Gannaway needed someone to hit the skins for him, and indeed on this outing he’s assembled a nice little group of fellow musicians to fill out the sound with some real live drums and bass. Gannaway’s voice, often processed and a bit ethereal, wafts over the proceedings – if anything, the best example on Bound & Suburban to which I could compare Darling One Year‘s vocals would be “Achilles”, where it sounded like the vocals were being driven through a flange pedal; in some cases on Darling One Year‘s heavier numbers, the vocals sound like they’re going through a guitar distortion pedal or some similar effect, and while the effects are never out of place with the songs, every once in a while it makes it a little hard to hear what’s actually being sung.

And that’s really my only quibble (and it’s a small one at that) with Darling One Year, because the lyrics are worth hearing – they’re often pointed and topical. The title track takes a first-person view of the oscurity of being an independent musician, and there’s no Bon Jovi waffle about riding a steel horse to be found here, but there’s no regret or bitterness to it either. “Student Debt Sucks” is funny and yet has a bubbling-just-under-a-boil rant going at the same time, with a great lyrical turn of phrase in “lending you astray.” Lyrically, the best song on here by miles is “Chain”, railing against bigotry and war and offering a philosophical comment about how every life is essentially a string of one-on-one encounters of one kind or another, any one of which could break said chain. “See The Light” offers a wry commentary on door-to-door evangelism (and here I thought that was a uniquely American phenomenon). And bookending things nicely, the last track, “A Small Thankyou”, is exactly as advertised.

4 out of 4Darling One Year is some excellent music that, hopefully, can get a wider audience by word-of-mouth. Daniel Gannaway’s unique style of filtering folk influences through modern recording techniques makes for quite a compelling listen, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he writes some damn good songs too. I’m pretty sure I said this about his previous release too, but I’ll repeat it here – if you only indulge in one independent release this year, Darling One Year would make a fine pick.

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  1. Darling One Year (4:17)
  2. Student Debt Sucks (3:40)
  3. Julie (4:50)
  4. Gotta Drive (3:47)
  5. In The North Sea (4:44)
  6. Laughing Free (3:56)
  7. Chain (3:39)
  8. See The Light (4:26)
  9. Ecstasy Lovers (4:47)
  10. A Small Thankyou (3:21)

Released by: Daniel Gannaway
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 41:30

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Daniel Gannaway – Bound And Suburban

Daniel Gannaway - Bound And SuburbanThis appealing self-published entry from New Zealand singer/songwriter Daniel Gannaway may be a low-key winner, but it’s a winner nonetheless – actually, it’s one of the best things that I’ve heard so far this year. Predominantly a one-man-and-his-guitar album with some drum machine and the occasional overdubbed keyboards and backing vocals, Bound And Suburban benefits from some self-assured musicianship and an excellent lyrical sensibility. In some ways, the best thumbnail description I can offer to the uninitiated is a combination of the lo-fi cool of the Finn Brothers or Sunglass and the hard-to-describe but distinct sound of the world-weary Celtic minstrel. Gannaway isn’t afraid to wax modern on several tracks either, with “Y’Hold My Court” standing out as a fine example of this.

My favorite track on the album happens to be the first, the majestically wistful “The Lights R’Out (Over Caldor)”, perhaps the most Celtic-sounding song of the entire set. It’s easy to see why this one was the lead track – Gannaway’s firing on all pistons here, with some outstanding guitar work, some light keyboards in all the right places, and vocals with are neither too thin nor too overpowering for the song. Other favorites include the appropriately slippery “Bourbon”, “Slide”, and the quirky “Achilles”. The entire album is relaxing, but never in a sleepy way.

If there’s one thing that Daniel could improve on in future releases, and I realize this is a difficult thing for any struggling musician to do with the limited resources that entails, would be to get some real drums in there, even if he’s got to get someone else in to play them. The drum machine worked well on rockier entries like “Image & Kool”, but as magnificently sweeping as “The Lights R’Out (Over Caldor)” already is, it could be positively magical with some real percussion in there. Some songs like “Not Your Lot” sidestepped the drum machine entirely or made only minimal use of it. Still, despite that, it says something that the songs weren’t 4 out of 4brought down by the drum machine – I just think some of them could be even better with someone hitting some real skins.

Highly recommended stuff. If, this year, you let me point you in the direction of just one artist you’ve never heard of, do check this one out.

Order this CD

  1. The Lights R’Out (Over Caldor) (6:02)
  2. Slide (6:50)
  3. Somewhere In Japan (Fishtank Soul) (6:00)
  4. Image & Kool (4:25)
  5. Not Your Lot (6:45)
  6. Bourbon (5:18)
  7. Y’Hold My Court (5:18)
  8. Bound And Suburban (4:35)
  9. Achilles (2:56)
  10. Where’s The Way? (5:38)

Released by: Daniel Gannaway
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 53:$7

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