Album Review: Black Birds Dancing Over Me

Fifteen years after his first record and former Juno-nominee Danny Michel still knows how to create a pleasantly unique sound.

Danny Michel and the Benque Players released their latest album, Black Birds Dancing Over Me, on Sept. 18. His tenth studio album has a beachy, reggae, folksy feel . If you’re already missing the long, hot days of summer, this album brings back the feeling of lounging in the sun, beverage in-hand.

Michel worked with Ivan Duran in Belize, bringing the raw Central-American culture to life on this eight-song mix. The album features members of the Garifuna Collective – a local Belizean group that is quite talented.

Though the album is similar to some of his other work, Michel uses diverse instrumentals to keep the sound fresh. Through the album, traditional Garifuna drums, turtle shells, saxophone, cowbells and even donkey jaw-bones are heard. It may seem gross, but donkey jaw-bones are a regularly used instrument in Belizean music. Black Birds Dancing Over Me is authentically Belizean while still appealing to Michel’s Canadian audience.

The backup vocals from the Garifuna Collective made this album different from anything heard in North America.

“Into the Light,” the fourth track, has a Maroon 5-esque quality about it, but that shouldn’t fool listeners. This song features the most traditional Garifuna instrumentals on the album.

“The First Night,” the second-to-last track on the album, sounds like it should be sung around a campfire on the West Coast. The backup vocals make an otherwise low-key song sound like a big, group production.

If nothing else, this album will give listeners a greater appreciation for the use of a unique Maya guitar.