The Campfire Flies are a songwriter’s dream sextet, bringing together some of New Jersey’s most acclaimed indie-rock writers and performers: John and Toni Baumgartner and Ed Seifert (Speed The Plough), Deena Shoshkes and Jon Fried (The Cucumbers) and Matt Davis (The Thousand Pities).
“Our first rehearsal was by candlelight in John and Toni’s living room,” recalls Fried. Longtime friends and admirers of each others’ work, the band formed one rainy night. A ferocious storm felled trees and knocked out the power in Haledon, N.J., during an evening the group had set aside to play through each other’s songs for fun. “There was a glowing, warm magic to the mood and the acoustic sounds, and we all couldn’t wait to get together and do it again,” says Davis.
Each songwriter comes to the group with a long, rich history and collection of songs. Each had songs that never quite fit into their existing bands or saw their way into the world in just the right fashion. All of The Campfire Flies are multi-instrumentalists: John B. – accordion, keys; Ed – guitar, mandolin, harmonica; Toni – winds, percussion; Matt – guitar, bass; Jon – banjo, bass, guitar, Deena – guitar, bass, percussion — and everyone sings. Key to the band’s sound are layered harmonies and four distinct, well-loved songwriting voices, enabling the band to create a broad spectrum of acoustic textures. After a year of performing at clubs and festivals in New York and New Jersey, the group decided to record an album. “New songs keep bubbling up among us, and we felt we needed to document what we had,” says Shoshkes. This album, Sparks Like Little Stars, is the result of that need.
The recurring motif here is warmth: in the instruments and arrangements; the vocal delivery and the spirit. Case and point, the joyful sounds from the opening track, “If Your Eyes Are Closed” are tempered by the harmonies, the acoustic guitars that embrace you, the flute and the flow; “Blue Fall Day” has a slight bluegrass and Celtic feel and stride – the soft delivery of Matthew Davis’ voice is perfect for the melody and is one of this album’s many highlights; “I’m Not Changing My Mind” and “Go Back To Your Heart” are two lovely, gentle and lilting ballads and the sweetness of the piano framing “Deep Water” are lifted by the most delicate and subtle harmonies (listen to those angelic voices on the bridge).
Eleven finely crafted and lovingly executed tracks that have the ability to do something that few albums released at this time can do: these songs will make you smile. And feel warm.
Sparks Like Little Stars is currently available