Danny Michel: Feather, Fur & Fin

I found my first Danny Michel album during my first trip to the Vinyl Diner. Aaron – who, it should be noted, had lived in Saskatoon for something like 24 years less than I had at that point – had discovered the place and took me there on one Monday afternoon. He introduced me to Stu, the proprietor, who was a very nice guy who (mostly) suppressed the eye-rolls brought on by the stack of CDs I was trading in.

With a pile of store credit, I plowed through the used CD racks and took a stack of discs home. Truth be told, most of what I picked up that day eventually found its way back to Stu’s, but Danny Michel’s album Fibsville has a permanent home in my CD collection. Sometimes, you hear an album and it just instantly appeals to you; this was one of those for me. Since then, I’ve picked up the rest of his records, the live DVD, and I’ve seen him in concert three times – but I’ve always held a soft spot for Fibsville.

Which is why I’m surprised to say that Feather, Fur & Fin easily tops it.

The press release touts Feather, Fur & Fin as Michel’s first truly independent release since 2001. From the very first listen, it’s clear that this (new? familiar?) arrangement suits Michel well. I don’t know if its the lack of record company interference or just the freedom that comes from making all your own decisions, but the ten songs here all count among the strongest that he’s ever written. The album trends towards longer, slower tunes, but there’s still the one-two punch of I’m ‘a Love You Anyway and Sweet Things, two of the more energetic songs in Michel’s catalogue. And topics like religion and the environment (and, uh, Mexican wrestling) creep into Danny’s lyrics for the first time, giving the album a bit more of a personal feel than long-time listeners would be used to.

Of course, anyone who knows me would suspect that I’d give a positive review to any album featuring a track about lucha libre (The 14 Masks of Danger). This is possibly true. I especially appreciated the reference to El Santo, as I wasn’t expecting the song to mention any actual specific luchadors. And I checked with Cubs, and the other wrestler mentioned – The Black Tornado – was a real guy too. I thought that the name might have been a reference to Danny’s song Black Tornadoes from his previous release, but Cubs says that Santo won the mask (“or his hair or something”) of Tornado Negro way back when. Though ultimately, I suspect that Danny Michel just knows a few names and is not exactly a die-hard lucha fan; I’ve listened to Fibsville a fair bit, and the song Souvenir indicates that Danny and pro wrestling don’t see eye-to-eye (A shiny gladiator cage / for pay-per-view and caveman rage / it’s the ultimate bullshit parade). But hey, I could be wrong. Maybe he just doesn’t like MMA.

As mentioned, Feather, Fur & Fin is an independent release, and the problem with doing everything yourself is that you have to do everything yourself. This includes distribution, which means that you might have a hard time finding it. As of this writing, the album is only available online, at shows, and in select independent music stores. Sure, it’s easy enough to order CDs online or buy digital downloads, but will people take a chance on it? It would be a shame if this album didn’t find an audience.

That was a pretty gushing review, complete with blatant plugs. I’ll balance it out by saying I could have done without the backing vocals in If God’s On Your Side. I’m all about being fair and responsible.

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