Zach Schmidt Delivers Solid Dose of Rhythm and Twang on ‘Raise A Banner’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Nashville by way of Pittsburgh Americana artist Zach Schmidt has the backing of some of the city’s biggest talents on his sophomore effort.

Produced by Sadler Vader (a brilliant solo artist and member of Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit), Schmidt brought in Vaden co-workers, including Jimbo Hart, Chad Gamble, Derry Deboria – all members of the 400 Unit – to help back him up on Raise A Banner, and the result a strong step forward from his debut. Across 10 tracks, Schmidt delivers a strikingly solid album crammed with telecaster twang, a locomotive rhythm section and songs brimming with a purpose. 

The album was competed and set to come out last year but put on a shelf waiting for right time to release it. Regardless, the themes seem pretty serendipitous, covering loss and fighting against hardships – not necessarily unheard-of topics for a country musician, but pretty apt emotions nonetheless given our collective recent past and the uncertainty that faces many in the coming months. 

The record opens on the raucous standout track “Forgone Conclusion” (with slide guitar coming courtesy of Isbell), and what follows is a mix of up-tempo jams and more reserved meditations on personal loss, like the beautifully despondent “I Look Different Through Your Eyes” or the slightly more upbeat but just as heartbreaking “You’re Still On My Mind,” sounding like a long-lost Glen Campbell song. “Burn Out Easy,” a sharp, easily relatable song about feeling beaten down and stressed out looking for a little peace of mind, is another example of Schmidt’s knack for being able to synthesize universal themes into succinct lyrics with a melody that sticks with you long after the song has stopped playing.    

From the forceful opening track “Forgone Conclusion,” to the thoughtful acoustic closer “Back Around,” Schmidt offers not only a deeply satisfying 40-some odd minutes but gives a compelling argument that he’s someone to pay attention to in a city filled with musicians vying for attention.

Photo credit: CURTIS WAYNE MILLARD

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