Before reviewing Drew Danburry’s latest album Goodnight Dannii (and in the interest of full disclosure), it’s worth mentioning that he has been a staple of the Provo music since before I got here, a handful of years ago.
I’ve always respected his work, I’ve been to his shows before, and I may even have been in a band that opened for his band, The Danburries, a long time ago (or maybe I was just at the show, I can’t completely recall.) I don’t know how these experiences might have colored the album for me, but they seem like the kind of thing that I ought to get out of the way first.
That said, however, Danburry hasn’t managed to become a respected local artist simply by hanging out for a long time. Rather, he works hard to make relevant music, which is amply evident on Goodnight Dannii. The album begins with “Nirvana, by Kurt Cobain,” a track that, while I’m not entirely sure what it has to do with Nirvana or Cobain, is a charming folk song with homespun appeal.
The song sets the tone for an album that should please folkies throughout, but is also increasingly diverse, perhaps a la Sufjan Stevens, as it progresses. Acoustic guitar and wispy vocals provide the foundation for most of the songs, but on tracks like “Artex Died In Truth of Consequences” — my personal favorite — and “Hero Kensan,” Danburry steps slightly back from the mic and hollers. The result is a series of raw moments that epitomize Danburry’s ability to milk a remarkable amount of emotion from a relatively low-fi aesthetic.
“Goodnight Dannii” thusly evokes groups like The Mountain Goats by channeling the chalky whirlpools running just off the mainstream into something left beautifully rough. It isn’t the kind of record you’d find on a Billboard chart, and it’s at best a second-cousin to many other fantastic folk-core albums that have come out of Provo’s music scene recently.
But that’s also what makes it a good listen. When Danburry yells, for example, the recording captures the ambient room tone of the studio, which grounds the songs in a physical space, the experiences in the real world. It doesn’t sound cheap or rushed, but instead opts to capture an uncanny branch of the folk zeitgeist.
Goodnight Dannii also serves as a kind of philosophical and pop cultural coda to Danburry’s remarkably prolific career to this point. Topics range from 90s music to love to the bucolic past, which means they’ll serve as an appropriate compliment to Danburry’s recent video project, Reliving the 90s — though, in fairness, there were also times when I felt the song titles were misleading.
I’m not sure, for example, how a title like “Kevin Costner is The Barry Manilow of Actors” can be anything but funny, yet the song was fairly somber and felt like a distant relative of Leonard Cohen’s darker material. That isn’t a bad thing on it’s own, but coupled with the titles I expected many of the fairly straight-faced songs to be more apparently ironic or satirical.
On the other hand, maybe I’m just not getting it. The good thing was that I really didn’t have to understand everything to enjoy the record. The lyrics are expansive and the instrumentation varied enough to embody a range of moods — and, in the end, they left me hoping that Goodnight Dannii isn’t actually goodbye from Drew Danburry.
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