One Track Mind: Timothy B. Schmit, "Friday Night" (2011)

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It’s like we never left Laurel Canyon. “Friday Night,” a newly issued single from Timothy B. Schmit’s most recent solo release Expando, is deliriously retro, with a welcome warbly assist from special guest Garth Hudson of the Band and a mellow-gold lyric about lighting candles and snuggling up for the weekend.

As much as it might feel like a cliche — as much as it very much is a cliche — there’s a sweet melancholy to Schmit’s voice that sells it right past your initial objections. He’s the mediator, the whoa-man in a maelstrom of trouble — a role he’s been playing for years amidst the ever-tumultuous Eagles.

Free of all of that, Schmit finally settles into a comfy Americana vibe again. Here’s how low key things were, in Schmit’s own words: “On ‘Friday Night’ there aren’t any real, traditional drums. Well, there are a couple drum hits, but the drum sounds are mostly a result of banging on guitars, chairs and walls. I like to create and have fun with different sounds. The bass drum on the song is a Sparkletts water bottle.”

The result is something that’s soft rock in the most complete sense of the word, and thus part of the most natural-sounding record yet produced by Schmit — who had an earlier stint with Poco (a So-Cal band that rose out of the ashes of Buffalo Springfield), but then the unfortunate fate of joining Don Henley and Co. just as everything went to shit. Schmit would end up going solo in the early 1980s, during the ascension of MTV. That led to more than a few unfortunate glossed-over pop experiments, each of them seemingly further away from his gently impressive beginnings on tracks like “Keep On Tryin,'” a Top 50 hit for Poco in 1975.

It seemed like Schmit was snakebit from the start. He had joined Poco in 1969, replacing Randy Meisner who eventually landed (get this) with the Eagles. Poco remained critically acclaimed, but widely ignored. Schmit then replaced Meisner yet again in the Eagles some seven years later — just as the band was coming off its tour in support of the career-making Hotel California. It took a year and half for the Eagles to complete The Long Run, which included Schmit’s dreamy Top 10 hit “I Can’t Tell You Why,” and then they promptly broke up. The Eagles wouldn’t reform again until 1994’s Hell Freezes Over, which also included a patently caramelized Schmit contribution, “Love Will Keep Us Alive.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Timothy B. Schmit and the Eagles returned in 2007 with the band’s first full album of new material since ‘The Long Run,’ and it played to all their strengths.]

In the meantime, Schmit was left to establish himself as a respected sessions man with Steely Dan and Toto, as well as Boz Scaggs (“Love Look What You’ve Done To Me,” which could have been a Schmit ballad), Firefall (“Just Remember I Love You,” ditto), Bob Seger (“Fire Lake”), Richard Marx (“Don’t Mean Nothing”) and Crosby Stills and Nash (“Southern Cross”). The Sacramento-bred bassist-composer toured with Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, and even rejoined Poco for a reunion project. But as a solo artist, Schmit struggled to find his footing in a world far removed from the country-rock placidity he’s always personified.

Until, at least, the arrival of Expando, which drew a determinedly straight line past the Eagles all the way back to Poco. With writing credits from Schmit throughout, this emerged as a deeply personal release. But nothing, at least these days, like a radio hit. Instead, it is (to paraphrase the modern saw) what Timothy B. Schmit is: Amiable, doggedly good natured, a little sappy — and never more so than on this song.

Schmit recorded 2009’s Expando entirely at his home studio near Los Angeles with a dazzling set of guest stars including Keb’ Mo’, Graham Nash, Kid Rock, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Van Dyke Parks, Dwight Yoakam and Benmont Tench of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers. Schmit is now hitting the road for a series of full-band dates, performing songs from Expando as well as key tracks from his stints with Poco and the Eagles. The tour kicks off tonight in Phoenix, AZ (11/25, Compound Grill) and will continue to Solana Beach, CA (11/28, Belly-Up Tavern), San Juan Capistrano, CA (11/30 Coach House), Agoura Hills (Los Angeles-12/3 Canyon Club), Santa Cruz, CA (12/6 Rio Theatre), Bend, OR (12/8, Tower Theatre), Bellingham, WA (12/9 Skagit Valley Casino), Seattle, WA (12/12, Kirkland PAC) and Portland, OR (12/13, Aladdin Theatre).

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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