by Jay Lustig
He has a funny name, but Stuffy Shmitt is no joke. Shmitt, who previously released one other album (2000’s “Nothing Is Real”) is a New York-based singer-songwriter-guitarist who has truly mastered his craft. His songs are serious, even poetic at times, yet filled with oddball lyrical twists and distinctive musical touches that keep them from getting boring. There are a few sub par songs on this album but, otherwise, it’s a striking collection.
Shmitt makes sure every song gets the instrumentation it deserves. Spaghetti western guitar riffs add cinematic flavor to “Wings of Love,” an accordion lilts prettily on the ballad ” Anybody’s Arms,” and a baritone sax honks ominously on the gritty tale “Somebody Else’s Money.”
At times, Shmitt recalls Tom Waits with his barroom references, clattering percussion, distorted vocals and guitar riffs, and stubborn romanticism. Even when vowing, “I will never fall away in anybody’s arms without one eye open,” he sounds ready to do just that.
He’s cryptic at times. “A summer’s afternoon from now you’ll be the echo note that trembles in the throat when singing’s past,” he sings in “A Grief Ago.” But he can also be disarmingly direct. The chorus of “I Think You’re Cool” consists of three blunt lines: “I think you’re cool/ I don’t care how sick you are/ I think you’re cool.”
There’s nothing particularly fashionable or groundbreaking about Shmitt’s music, and maybe that’s why he hasn’t received as much attention as he deserves. But surely it’s just a matter of time: music like this has a trend-transcending appeal.