Get local news delivered straight to your phone

We can't make City Paper without you

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Dressed in matching old-fashioned doctor and nurse uniforms—”in which to provide comfort”—and with hearts sewn on their sleeves, the Danielson Family may be one of the strangest groups to emerge in the fracturing twilight of the century. South Jersey’s Danielsons (mostly brothers and sisters of the Smith family, led by elder brother Daniel) grew up hearing their father on acoustic guitar every night, singing folk, gospel, and Pentecostal hymns. It wasn’t until Daniel’s Rutgers thesis show, however, that the kids formed a band. After two albums, the group has evidently split into three: an acoustic gospel outfit called Danielson Famile, a space-rock band known as Danielsonship, and the lone Brother Danielson, who sings from within a 9-foot tall papier-mâché tree. The Famile’s unique arrangements lend their songs the feel of a spontaneous performance or a home-grown Sunday school indie musical. Tri Danielson!!! is like a visit to an eerie but beatific Christian summer camp that’s gotten out of hand, where caring Children of the Corn with guitars, organs, and shakers reign. With damnation and hellfire imagery wrapped in nursery rhymes, the scriptural verse (“As coals of fire rest on their heads”) melds with backyard rhymes (“Get your rear in gear, lend an ear, have no fear”) in “Holy Kissers Block Party.” Like West Coast brethren Soul Junk, Danielson is operating on a spiritual plane; its music has a mission to heal us. “I receive these songs, no doubt inspired by the Holy Spirit,” Daniel says, claiming the music is for one and all. Very peculiar, but distinctly American. The Danielsons, if given a spin, may worm their way into your heart—though they’d rather save your soul.

—John Dugan