Growing up, my mother had a record player that we brought from her hometown in Iowa to Colorado, and two records that I came to love were Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant, a Thanksgiving staple, and Cat Stevens’ Tea for the Tillerman. I kept thinking of those two artists as I listened to folk singer-songwriter Danny Shafer’s third album, Weddings, Floods and Funerals; a fun fusion of folk, country and bluegrass. Shafer’s album has more energy than Tillerman and Alice’s Restaurant to the point of feeling breezy, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that this is an excellent folk album.
Shafer, initially from Chicago, has played over 200 shows a year between his solo gig and the band he’s a part of, The 21st Century, and the polished talent that comes with that level of prolificacy shows itself with Weddings. Providing the vocals and lead guitar, Shafer is backed up by twelve different artists, including saxophone player Mirco Altenbach, harmony vocalists Lauren Stovall and Monica Whittington. But each and every song is very minimalist; they feel like tracks from different jam band sessions Shafer has done, recorded in a studio.
One song that contributes to the breezy, fun feeling of this album is the third track, “Barbecue.” What’s it about? A dude who loves barbeque more than his girl or financial situation. It’s chuckle-inducing. It almost sounds like a song done by a modernized version of the fictional Soggy Bottom Boys from O Brother, Where Art Thou? The following song, “Darkest Hour,” also brings to mind the Soggy Bottom Boys. But what drew me in was “Worked All Day,” the second track, because it reminds me of Arlo Guthrie. It sounds like City of New Orleans-era Guthrie with a country twang in his guitar. “My Hometown Tonight” is what brings to mind Cat Stevens; it possesses that mellowness and melancholy that one hears on “Tillerman.” Shafer’s work hits the childhood nostalgia I have for Guthrie and Stevens head on, and for that, I love Weddings, Floods and Funerals.
For those who wish to see Shafer’s next show and get their own copy of Weddings, visit DannyShafer.com.