Brighter Than The Sun is an independent album, produced by Ed Cash, that's full of songs that warm the soul. Dante delivers songs for any situation: songs for reflection, praise, dancing and inspiration.
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Neo-'90s? Or a folk future?| Posted December 12, 2014
Dante Schmitz keeps pretty busy. The Broken Arrow, Oklahoma artist is a worship leader--at THREE different churches--and has a rock band called Dante and the Hawks. Oh yeah, he has an indie solo career, too--and his work caught the ear of A-list producer Ed Cash.
Now, Schmitz has released his Cash-produced Brighter Than The Sun, which introduces the world to his folksy, poppy, singer-songwritery goodness.
Dante's voice is smooth and soothing, not unlike Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay's. He has some folk-pop tendencies, dancing the line between Jars, FFH and Caedmon's Call, with a little bit of the late-'90s band The Waiting. That's pretty good company, and those comparisons certainly point to a more '90s style of Christian music. But Schmitz pulls off the dated style without making a dated-sounding record.
Highlights of the album include title track "Brighter than the Sun," which has a Southern rock-meets-acoustic-ballad style of play. It's a hopeful song about Jesus' ultimate victory over the darkness in the world.
"Footprints," another high point, definitely carries the Caedmon's Call and The Waiting vibe musically, while lyrically pointing to the truth of God's presence even during the toughest times (think about the famous poem that shares the song's title). It features some of Schmitz's most aggressive vocals.
Call me a sucker for good use of banjo, but the deployment of the instrument right at the beginning of "Alive in Me" caught my attention right away, and never let it go. The strongest cut on the record, the song is a singable, worshipful song that has some serious adult contemporary radio friendliness to it. The chorus, which sings, "You were alive in me when I thought I lost my way," is a profound declaration of God's overarching grace.
This song really makes me wonder what a more overtly folk record would sound like for Schmitz. It's not out of his range of knowledge; Schmitz says folk is where he started as a musician. The production quality is incredible, the obvious lyrical direction is refreshing, and the vocals would catch any Jars of Clay fan by pleasant surprise.
One of the best moments musically on the album is "A Little Faith," which provides great interplay between atmospheric guitars, background "oohs," cascading pianos and Schmitz's balladry. There may even be a little slide guitar in there for good measure. A great message drives it along, too: "If you have a little faith in your life, the storm gets warm and dark becomes light."
Brighter than the Sun features three acoustic "remixes" of songs already on the album, and I'm glad they're on there. They present a reintroduction to "Alive in Me", "Shine on Me" and "Uncovered," and in the case of the latter, it's an improvement upon the original. I would've like to have heard more acoustic layers to these songs, but I think that just comes from my overall desire to hear Schmitz pursue a more overtly folk record.
An interesting moment on the record was on the song "Dwell," which is a great call-and-response-type song that we really haven't seen since the '90s--you know, the ones where the boys sing one thing and the girls sing the echo? Well, unfortunately, the guitar riff at the beginning of that song distracted from that great moment, because it was, note for note, the same as one of the most popular songs in Christian music right now. Take a listen and you'll hear the intro to the song "God's Not Dead." I'd like to think that was a coincidence, but surely a producer like Ed Cash didn't stumble into it.
What's old is new again. That's not only the truth today; it's biblical truth. Solomon talked about it. We see it with the influx of '80s-styled music. There's no reason to think that the '90s can't make a musical comeback, too. Dante Schmitz has certainly found himself in that realm, and he pulls it off convincingly.
That said, I'd like to hear a folk record from him, which I think would better suit his vocal and songwriting strengths. We caught it for a second on "Alive in Me," and it only makes me curious for more songs like that.