Wandering Minstrel

Wandering Minstrel
Doug Schmude
A New Century
11-Track CD

In the weeks when the Locals Only mailbox seems overrun with crappy teenage suburban punk bands whining about how they can't get laid in song after completely unlistenable, torturous song, along comes an envelope from someone who actually knows a bit more about the bigger, badder planet. This would be Doug Schmude, a terribly good singer-songwriter who's spent his life ramblin' 'round—born in Louisiana, childhood divided between Oklahoma and Texas, craft honed on the sidewalks of Boulder and Nashville—and who as of this year, inexplicably, is making camp in Irvine. We sense he probably won't be here forever, though, so we must enjoy his eloquent acoustic and slide pickings while we can (and those of his friends, who help pepper his tunes with beautiful mandolins, dobros and violins). Wandering is a major recurring theme in his songs, too—on this album, someone's always arriving or leaving or waiting for somebody to show up. Astutely observant Schmude reflects a world where the days pass like freight trains, neighbors complain about loud steel guitars, gamblers stick around for one last hand, and tornadoes, floods and hurricanes rip up the lives of the guilty and the innocent. Like any self-respecting nomadic minstrel, he drops place names everywhere (Dallas! Memphis! Lawrenceburg, Kentucky!) and so often you can almost get a whiff of the stockyards, paper mills and dead skunks flanking the Interstate. And Schmude has a great singing voice, a warm, beckoning tone he frequently carries just to the edge of hoarseness. When he chants the line “There is nothing so beautiful as an open road” at the end of “St. Julian,” his homage to the patron saint of innkeepers, all you want to do is hook up with him and go along for the ride, no matter where he's heading.

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Rich Kane

OC and Long Beach bands and musicians! Mail your CDs and tapes (along with your vital contact info, plus any impending performance dates) for possible review to: Locals Only, OC Weekly, P.O. Box 10788, Costa Mesa, CA 92627-0247. Please let us know if you'd like us to add an MP3 to ocweekly.com/records.

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