THE STAR LEDGER (The Newspaper for New Jersey)
by Jay Lustig
“CELEBRATION OF LIFE”
Brush with death compels Stuffy Shmitt to create personal statement
Lots of people have had the experience of drifting in and out of reality under the influence of sedation. But singer-songwriter Stuffy Shmitt may be the first person to write a song about it.
“Nothing Is Real,” the title track from his debut album, was inspired by a near fatal bout with pneumonia that led to a month in intensive care about two years ago. He sings stream-of-consciousness lines like “Gutterball down memory lane/Birds crash into the window pane” and “Donna’s passed out in the chair/There’s a pony in this box somewhere/I say nothing is real/Thank God” over a relaxed, intoxicating beat. The music behind him constantly changes. Strings, horns and voices appear as if from nowhere, then disappear. An operatic solo belts out a few lines from the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby,” then vanishes.
It’s a striking song, one of many on this album that signal that Shmitt, who will open for the Robert Cray Band Friday night at the Community Theatre in Morristown with an acoustic set, is a major new talent.
“Heart Above Water” has a similarly inviting, dreamy feel. The simple yearning melody of “Long Water” sounds like it could have come from an ancient Irish folk song, and “Everybody Loves Lulu” boasts some sure-handed pop hooks. The bongo-fueled “Cool It Baby” recalls the neo-beatnik sound of early Rickie Lee Jones, and darkly poetic songs like “Just Between Us Lovers” and “Room 792” are in the Tom Waits vein, though the vocals lack Waits’ gruffness.
Shmitt, who is not to be confused with the comic-strip character Snuffy Smith, grew up in Milwaukee. He came to New York City “as soon as high school was over. I ran like a rabbit.”
He’s been playing in clubs for years as well as writing music for film projects as diverse as the MTV game show “Turn It Up,” the long-forgotten 1985 comedy “The Heavenly Kid” and the 1993 children’s educational film “Whatever Happened to the Dinosaurs?”
Before making his solo album, he had been playing with a hard-rocking New York band called Petting Zoo, whose loud guitars and pounding beat overshadowed his lyrics. The musical direction of the new album, which couldn’t be a more personal statement, was influenced by his hospital stay.
“I wanted to make a very special record. When you almost die, things swirl into a weird, urgent chaotic focus. Everything seemed either brutally crucial or it didn’t matter at all. One thing was for sure: I didn’t have time for more demos. I had to make this record.”
It was “being up all night,” he says that almost killed him. “It’s a lot of work in this town to do music and stay alive. It’s just too much fun. It caught up with me, and I got lucky.”
NEW YORK POST
by Dan Aquilante
“THE YOUNG & THE TUNEFUL” STUFFY SHMITT, Nothing Is Real three stars: “a singular sound… deserves a spin…”
In the wilds of Brooklyn, a guy named Stuffy Shmitt had a heart full of music, a brain full of chemicals, and managed to turn on a tape recorder and capture it while in a hospital bed suffering from a near fatal bout with pneumonia. Although nobody will recommend illness for the sake of art, it helped Shmitt develop his love of life.
Shmitt is lyrically poetic, and his music is broad enough so that not all the songs sound the same. It’s one of those albums that takes a little time to appreciate, but the rewards are there for you in the end.
THE AQUARIAN WEEKLY
New! Improved! More Rock!
STUFFY SHMITT/Nothing Is Real
Rating — 4 — “Impress your friends with your keen musical ear”
Once you get past his name, Stuffy’s not too bad. His trashy Chris Issak baritone makes for engaging listening. He picks the right tones, moods and lyrics to hop in his musical sidecar that’s up to no good. His destination is a bit odd and retro in a jacked-up Camaro on the cinderblocks in the front yard kind of way. Best taken with whiskey poured from a plastic bottle.
VIN SCELSA, “Idiots Delight,” WNEW-FM/NYC calls Stuffy Shmitt’s Nothing Is Real “A mesmerizing piece of music!”
PETER BOCHAN, “All Mixed Up,” WBAI-FM/NYC says “I dig Nothing Is Real!” “It’s one of the best indie release this year.”
SHEPHERD EXPRESS METRO (Milwaukee, WI) Night and Day