“I’m never prepared for the weight of this room. . . or for hanging out with an Eagle,” Jack Ingram told the crowd halfway through this week’s Americana Honors & Awards ceremony, minutes after sharing the onstage podium with Timothy B. Schmit.
Like Don Henley, who hit the same stage last year to perform a song from the solo album Cass County, Schmit was in town not only to honor the newest generation of roots musicians, but to whip up attention for his own music. He’s been working on his newest record, Leap of Faith, for years, finding time to poke and prod at its 11 songs — all originals, and all featuring the familiar voice of the Eagles’ resident flower-child folksinger— during gaps in the Eagles’ tour dates. [Hear the full album below.]
Things went slowly until this January, when Glenn Frey’s passing left Schmit at home, shocked and in desperate need of musical distractions. He recorded Leap of Faith there, in a home studio once planned as an art space for his wife. With the Santa Monica Mountains in the distance and a patch of state-protected Californian wilderness stretched outside the front door, Schmit created a soundtrack for that sort of pitch-perfect American landscape, mixing bluegrass, Cajun, rock, Seventies soul and California country into the same track list.
Leap of Faith is an Americana album, in other words, delivered by an elder statesman who’s been laying the brickwork for Americana’s existence since the 1970s. Schmit is no newcomer. No cosmic-cowboy wannabe. Rather than focus on proving his country credentials, he sticks to the Schmit-ian basics on Leap of Faith, singing the songs with a gentle, unhurried voice that’s more tailored to peaceful easy feelings than life in the fast lane.
Released today, Leap of Faith marks Schmit’s first solo release since 2009’s Expando, which found him welcoming Van Dyke Parks, Graham Nash, Dwight Yoakam and others into his home studio. Parks makes a return appearance this time around, playing accordion on the bluegrass tune “Red Dirt Road,” while Al Jardine’s sons stack their harmonies throughout “The Island,” a Beach Boys-worthy to the Kokomo lifestyle. Co-produced by Hank Linderman, who helped helm the Eagles’ Long Road Out of Eden, Leap of Faith is the first Eagles-affiliated release since Frey’s passing.