For his senior thesis project at Rutgers University, Daniel Smith handed in what became Danielson Famile's first album, A Prayer for Every Hour. He got an A, not to mention the start to a long career in gospel-tinged indie pop. Released by Tooth & Nail Records in 1995, the album featured Smith backed by his siblings, who ranged in age from 12 to their early twenties. Together, they made up Danielson Famile, a family band that delivered orthodox Christian messages but steered clear of traditional Christian symbols, relying instead on an inventive, offbeat style that sounded like Captain Beefheart's Magic Band joined by the Partridge Family at some roadside revival along the Jersey Turnpike.
Although an acquired taste, the band's sound began picking up steam as the decade went on. Tell Another Joke at the Ol' Choppin' Block, produced by Kramer (Galaxie 500, Low, Palace Brothers), followed in 1997. In 1998, Smith launched Tri-Danielson to convey his three distinct musical directions: solo, with his family members, and a more rock-based incarnation called Danielsonship. Tri-Danielson released Alpha in 1998, followed in 1999 by Omega. Both releases earned a healthy buzz in the mainstream press, despite their overtly spiritual content.
The band capitalized on that attention by signing to Secretly Canadian Records in 2001, ditching the overtly Christian Tooth & Nail label in the process. They also bid goodbye to longtime producer Kramer, hiring Steve Albini instead to produce their next release, 2001's Fetch the Compass Kids. Brother: Son, a Smith-produced solo project released under the moniker Br. Danielson, arrived in 2004. In 2006, Smith returned to the original Danielson moniker, employing every collaborator thus far in the Famile history for the creation of Ships. Smith put Danielson on hiatus for the next five years, eventually returning with an all-new lineup for 2011’s Best of Gloucester County, which -- despite the title -- represented the group’s eighth studio outing and was not a compilation of previously released material. In 2014, Danielson released a collaboration with indie rock legend and Half Japanese founder Jad Fair, Solid Gold Heart; Fair wrote the lyrics and sang lead, Daniel composed the music, the Famile provided accompaniment, and Kramer (one of Fair's frequent collaborators) recorded and mixed the sessions. ~ Jason Nickey