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Danny Michel and The Garifuna | Black Birds Are Dancing Over Me

album review by John Powell

Danny Michel and The Garifuna | Black Birds Are Dancing Over Me

Before you even read this review, go buy this album. Don’t think twice. Don’t wonder if it’s deep or approachable. Don’t worry if it’s too long or short. Just sit down with it and give it your full attention.

Canadian singer/songwriter Danny Michel paired up with The Garifuna Collective to make one of the modern age’s best collaborative albums. The obvious comparison is Paul Simon, but if you’re being compared to Graceland then you’re shouldn’t worry so much. Danny is an incredible songwriter. The images he creates through metaphor and adjectives projects a wide world built of humor and love, or loss and hope. He sings about peace and justice without ever coming off didactic.

This is accentuated by The Garifuna Collective, who, with hand percussion and layers of rhythm and instrumental harmonies, advances these lyrics into impeccable songs. Like Paul Simon, Danny’s voice isn’t operatic, but it’s emotive and calm. His delivery hits the homeruns.

Black Birds Are Dancing Over Me starts off hard, too. “What Colour Are You?” is simply an amazing track. “I was there when the colors combined,” he sings. “I’d been trying to change them with my mind.” Later he says, “I put it in a gumball Cracker Jack Prize/ I won a mood ring and it was just my size/ It said, ‘What colour are you?’” Behind him guitars twirl and percussion adds light layers.

“Survivor’s Guilt” is darker, though no less charming. “I met that wolf again/ on that road tonight,” Danny sings over Latin-tempted guitar. “A light was leaking through a crack left in your heart.” The lyrics are half cryptic, but he also paints a scene, and if you listen in you can follow the narrative.

There are two dynamite songs:

“Sad and Beautiful World” is the reason I told you to go get this album. It shimmers with world rhythm. “What’s the use of nations and borders?” Danny asks. “I’d love for you to come over/ but we were born on the wrong side.” He’s such a hippie, but it’s never heavy handed. It’s pure silk.

The other song is “The First Night”, a summer anthem with pop sensibility. “You can bet your whole heart/ throw it on the table/ add in your wristwatch.” The melody is magic, even when he rhymes “turning” with “burning” and “learning”. Danny just has a way of sucking you in, like when he follows up with, “I gave my whole heart/ now she’s got two.”

Indulge in this lovely record. The very nature of combining Canadian acoustic songwriting with the Garifuna’s sunny world blend has my head spinning. This is the best kind of music and this is the best kind of album.

Bottom line: With very, very few imperfect lines and melodies, Black Birds Are Dancing Over Me is gold wrapped in chocolate and dipped in sunshine.


 

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