As I've been preparing for our Studio One Tracks live broadcast of The Mountain Goats this Saturday night (Sept. 12, beginning at 7:00 pm with opening act Kate Kennedy), I've come across many surprisingly varied ways that other writers have described John Darnielle's voice. One of my favorites is from a Paste magazine scribe who wrote that The Mountain Goats' songs are "steadfastly proclaimed in (Darnielle's) geek who-lived-to-tell wail." The writer liked the singer's voice, and so do I. Darnielle's vocals, and also the "author's voice" of his distinctive songwriting (plus his guitar playing) are what define The Mountain Goats.
The Mountain Goats began recording in 1991, with Darnielle recording his songs using a cassette deck boombox. A prolific songwriter, he recorded mainly solo to cassettes until 2002, when the Tallahassee album was recorded in a studio with a band. There have been several consistently compelling Mountain Goats albums since then. The latest, Beat The Champ, came out this past Spring.
Originally from California, Darnielle has lived in Portland, Chicago and for the past several years in Durham, NC. From 1996-2003, he lived in Iowa, calling Ames home for a good portion of that time. Saturday night's headlining Maximum Ames Music Festival performance is the last in a series of solo Mountain Goats shows before the full band begins a world tour in October.
For a taste of solo Mountain Goats, here's an NPR Tiny Desk Concert from a few years ago!