Photo and video by Adam Thomas
If the name Danny Rectenwald seems familiar to you, you probably recognize him as one of Pittsburgh’s most raucous Celtic punks, the Bastard Bearded Irishmen. He’s the one playing the mandolin, singing, and engaging in whatever wacky antics necessary to hype up the crowd (examples here.) Or maybe you’ve seen him onstage at one of Randy Baumann’s Rambles, wielding a mandolin or guitar as part of a fun, fiery supergroup of local standouts. So it’d be understandable to guess that his new solo project would capture some of that same high-octane energy.
Understandable, but incorrect. Rectenwald’s new 15-track-long album, Samadhi¸ is a tranquil and utterly beautiful classical guitar record. An official Misra Records release, it debuted on major streaming and download platforms a little while ago. However, the release show is happening this Friday, December 14th, at The WBU Event Venue/Spring Hill Brewing on the North Side.
Recalling guitarists like Andy McKee and Tommy Emmanuel, Rectenwald brings his incredible finger-picking skill (honed by a decade-plus of gigging experience) to a more meditative, soothing place. The title, then, is appropriate. The definition of ‘samadhi’ is “a state of intense concentration achieved through meditation,” and is also the final stage of Hindu yoga. In other words: complete connectedness to, and absorption in, the present moment. By forgoing any words, as well as all other instruments, Rectenwald allows you to sink deeply in to his warm, intricate guitar compositions. (He also puts his own spin on a cover or two, including a gorgeous take of “Rainbow Connection.”) It’s a record that will calm and center you, the musical equivalent of a deep breath outside on a sunny day.
Even if yoga isn’t on your schedule, the album makes great background music too. This is the time of year for large gatherings of guests around fireplaces and in living rooms, and Samadhi makes a much better backdrop for conversation than Hallmark Channel movies on low volume. (I also recommend putting it on while getting ready in the morning—thank me later.)
It helps that the record was actually made in a living room—Chet Vincent’s living room, to be exact. He and Daniel Dickison (fellow Ramble vets and members of both The Big Bend and Molly Alphabet) recorded and produced the album in Vincent’s home, adding to its intimate, welcoming feel.
Don’t conflate “background” and “tranquil” with “boring,” either. There’s an ebb and flow of energy that makes listening to the record straight through both a seamless and engaging experience. Rectenwald knows exactly where to place and play each note, each chord, each strum, each touch of shimmering reverb, each high wandering melody and each low vibrating undercurrent. This is a product of both sharp intuition and remarkable talent. Slower, softer numbers such as “Daffodil” and “Julia Florida” coexist nicely with more animated tracks like “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” and “Road Song.” Other personal favorites include “Meditation on Heartache,” “Wait,” and the album’s opener, “Miracle.”
But don’t just take my word for it. Check out Rectenwald’s first music video for “Miracle” below, directed by Adam Thomas and filmed out and about on the streets of Pittsburgh. Samadhi is also available to stream and download on Bandcamp, Spotify, and other major music platforms. Keep up with Danny on Facebook here and on his own website here.
And consider coming by the album release show this Friday, December 14th. The WBU Event Venue’s doors open at 7:30 PM. Rectenwald will be joined on the lineup by his collaborators Chet Vincent and Daniel Dickison, who will play at 8:15, with Danny taking the stage at 9. Tickets are $15 in advance and day of show; find them online here. Check out the Facebook event page for complete details.