huge thanks to Blake Solomon and the entire AbsolutePunk staff!
David Karsten Daniels
Fear of Flying
Fat Cat Records
David Karsten Daniel’s voice had me in tears before “Wheelchairs,” the album’s sorrowful and slow-moving opener, finished its first chorus. It’s refreshing to find that Daniels is such a deep human being, and if this song were anything more than delicately picked acoustic guitars and fluttering flutes, it might be too much to bear. But don’t think Fear of Flying is one big hipster sobfest, either. “Martha Ann,” for example, is a groovefest housed in a forgotten, rural barn. Violins, a deep woodwind instrument (baritone sax?) and southern-tinged electric guitars make this song a forerunner on the list of “Songs to Play at My Wedding.” These two pieces are a representation of why Fear of Flying works so well. Whether we’re sitting in the dark, holding onto a wet handkerchief for dear life (“The Character”) or we’re driving down an ol’ country road with the top down (“Falling Down”), Mr. Daniels triumphs at a profound level.
His voice ain’t pretty, but it ain’t supposed to be. I’m not sure what his father (a music minister) thinks, but this type of bluegrass/folk with brains needs a person who isn’t exactly sure of their own talent. The way Daniels’ voice warbles makes for a wonderful dichotomy. At certain points it’s easy to think, “I could do that!” Although, at other instances, his delicate nature seems impossible to duplicate. As previously mentioned, Daniels jumps all over the place on Fear of Flying, and he has a talented group of musicians around him to make his every whim a reality. The country vibe always peeks through, but no song really sounds like any other (at least instrumentally). Daniels’ self-aware pipes serve as the glue.
This review is becoming a bit one-sided. Did I mention I’d marry his larynx? I would.
Although usually sparse in its instruments, Fear of Flying is loaded with lyrical goodness. “Everytime A Baby Is Born” makes for a good indication of Daniels’ poetic abilities. Over light snare taps and high-pitched piano tinkles he gets in our faces, “I don’t have much sympathy / For your fear / What is so hard / To grasp / About the idea / That everyone goes away in their time? / You have yours / As I have mine / Do you cry / Every time / A baby is born?” His religion is something never shied away from, as is also evident in the beautiful and haunting “Evensong.” The song uses environmental noises to remove the music from (my new biggest enemy) traditional recording spaces. Daniels then takes his time reciting The Lord’s Prayer over an almost nonexistent acoustic guitar melody. If all witnessing were done in this way, well, let’s just say this would be a different country. When Daniels unleashes a chilling “Amen” upon us, it’s very hard to not be startled. But a good surprise leads to awakenings. And in this case I’ve realized any voice, if used effectively, can be gorgeous and awe-inspiring.
Recommended If You Like: David Shultz, French Quarter, six degrees of separation, Drew Danburry, Owen Pye, friendly acquaintances