Danielson Ships

Danielson Ships
Daniel Smith’s decade-long recording career has not gone under the radar — unfortunately his reviewers have often preferred "Danielson the Jesus freak” over "Danielson the artist.” Ships, his seventh album, does not yield easily to such stereotyping; it’s a sprawling, challenging work, less off the wall and more enigmatic than what formerly, tragically had Danielson billed as a novelty act on occasion. 34 talents are credited on the album, including Smith’s brothers and sisters (or "Famile”) and an extended network of friends & fellow musicians — a culmination of everyone Smith has ever worked with, as well as several newly forged collaborations. It’s a marvel that such a crowded ensemble creates such a cohesive product. The sound is thick, and individual songs undergo their own turns and convolutions, but many ideas are assimilated into one self-contained, start-to-end project. There are lighthearted bits for certain, including the playful "Did I Step On Your Trumpet” (which features a great Gilbert & Sullivan-like call-back chorus). Underneath all the fun and eccentricity, however, Ships sounds grandiose. Danielson has always taken a unique approach to somewhat stilted forms: introducing straight-faced spirituality to art rock and goofy artistry to straight-faced Christianity. It’s no stretch to say that Ships is his own epic, though unlike what anybody is used to.

The name "Danielson” seems to have gone through a few variations… It started out as this realisation that the Creator is our heavenly father, and we’re all children — so I put this word together — Danielson — and it became a single identity. The Tri-Danielson concept was splitting Danielson into three: Brother Danielson, Danielson Famile and Danielson Ship. It’s a different group of people on different recordings, so it’s kind of messy. In the old days you’d just say, "These records are all called Beach Boys,” even though it was only Brian Wilson and the studio guys.

Is the latest a Danielson Ship recording? Smith: It’s just going to be billed as Danielson. It’s kind of a conclusion record in a lot of ways… you spend ten to 11 years working with different people, and this one was pretty much working with everyone I’ve ever worked with, as well many others that I hadn’t. So now it’s this idea that everyone’s welcome.

Is Ships the last Danielson record? No, not at all! It’s very much the end of ten years of this long study, from a conceptual standpoint, with different identities. Whereas Brother Danielson was very much about a single identity, and Famile is about blood relationships, Ships is now about relationships as a whole, creative community. I could spend the rest of my life studying creative community and relationships — I sure could get better at that! (Secretly Canadian)