Album art courtesy of The Godfrey Daniels

Local Review: The Godfrey Daniels – An Evening with the Godfrey Daniels

Local Music Reviews

The Godfrey Daniels
An Evening with the Godfrey Daniels

Wasteland Records
Street: 01.01
Godfrey Daniels = Mountain Man + Adrianne Lenker / Shakey Graves

Opening with the band’s vibrant single, “Bigtop Roulette,” An Evening with The Godfrey Daniels is every bit the exuberant menagerie that this introductory track implies. This is a debut album that, like a horse, was born ready to run. The acts under Evening’s tent are of the honky tonk variety, energized with vintage big-band ballads and poetic folk vocals of heartache and protest throughout. The electric, twanging instrumentals are paired with potent lyrical images like that of  “drinking in church parking lots,”  “waiting in a truck stop casino / swimming in the ocean, walking barefoot in Reno,” uncaring wannabe rock stars who are “dressed up like the prophet,” and a runaway “at the AM / PM chewin’ on bubble gum nicotine.” Written by Molly Mars, Evening is a sonic portrait of a neon-buzzing, swinging Americana gothic—it’s the kind of horse I’d go all in on at a circus casino racetrack, should such a thing exist. 

Evening is an album of unity—like a circus, it is a circle of every kind of delight. Beginning with the high-powered “Bigtop Roulette” and ending with the resonant and airy track “Goodnight,” the project moves through an evening of storytelling like cowboy poetry. It is an album you’re meant to truly spend an evening with, to get up-close-and-personal with. Mars’ soulful and raw melodies, the polished and jazzy backing band and immersive sounds like slot machines dinging and distant trains wailing combine to make the album a holistic listening experience from start to finish. The Godfrey Daniels fall within a clear lineage of folk music with the tracks on this album, inviting you to participate at every turn. Yes, stomp and holler to this! Yes, yelp and weep to this! There are work song blues, heartbreak anthems and hooks that will have you hooked: “When you’re with me, honey, you’re caffeine / When you’re not, you’re nicotine / I can’t stop the cravings.” 

Produced by Mars and Dirk Jeffrey Lamb, Evening is often punctuated by the concerns and realities of contemporary women. “Josie Jean” introduces its eponymous character with delicate acoustics and a list of images that mark her as gorgeously messy in ways only a modern woman on the run can be:  “Moldy grapefruit, wounded soldier left out from last night / French press coffee, instant oatmeal, start the day off right / TV stuck on Channel 7, E! Celebrity News / Glitter on her pillow from her cheekbone, clothes on the floor of her hotel room.” Punchy with electric guitar riffs and backing horns, “Girl in a Crowd” tells the story a gal like me knows all too well: “Got a weak spot for a local boy who plays guitar / Feeling like somebody because he knows who you are.” Mars’ lyrics are relatable and powerful in the ways they connect to the feminine urge to feel and to feel deeply. “Let Me Bleed,” a track about embracing intense emotionality, especially when it becomes “too much to cram it all in,” is one of my favorites on the album. It features Mars’ powerfully belted plea to “put down the tampon and let me bleed,” a battle-cry for women everywhere waiting to run through the streets red with rage. And really, aren’t we all? 

Check out their acoustic performance of  “Caffeine,” performed as part of The Carriage House Sessions, on YouTube. Mars made a live debut of Evening there on January 5th, a show which I had the pleasure to attend. Mars performed with her hand painted Teton Guitar, and the participatory nature of these songs invited a sing-along-jamboree-spiritual kind of vibe that we probably could use a helluva lot more of these days. I highly recommend you see them perform live; follow them on Instagram at @thegodfreydaniels. –Libby Leonard

Read more reviews of debut albums from local artists:
Local Album Review: Federal Heights – Federal Heights
Local Album Review: Shay Obray – Flowers