Donna the Buffalo - Tonight, Tomorrow, and Yesterday

There's not a style or mode of music that isn't presently in a state of ferment, hybridization, progressivism, or downright obtusement (is that even a word???), but Donna the Buffalo's zydeco-based oeuvre is one of the gentlest examples of how to inflow various influences to create a next level stepping up from the hoary traditional or even away from the recent past. I think the closest I'd put them would be as akin to the Band. Robbie Robertson & Co. still defy full analysis (especially Rob's guitar playing), and I puzzle over their approaches all the time while grinning from ear to ear. Donna's crew have taken much the same tack in utilizing elements of rock, jug, folk, cajun, and other modes to craft a final product that flows with prairie down-homeness, midnight bayou git-up-n-dance-ification, and MOR / AOR chartability, albeit of a more sophisticated nature and with none of the pretensions the charts are normally home to.

My favorite cut is "I See How You Are". LOVE that song! Reminds me a lot of Blue Line Highway ('n I likes me some BLH, I certainly does), with a smooth rolling beat and flavor carrying light progressive touches, especially in keyboardist David McCracken's piano lines, everything in a happy-go-lucky breeze interestingly countered by the lament of the lyrics. Fascinating how well both go together. Tara Nevins' vocals are sweet as a May morning, especially on this cut, and the band falls right into the pocket behind her. Elsewhere, there's quite a bit of the old Fillmore West sound present, as Bill Graham loved Americana and woulda put this ensemble on the stage in a hot San Francisco minute, right alongside Lamb, Stoneground, and other bygone outfits, even the Grateful Dead. All share the same baseline.

Nevins and Jeb Puryear split the writing duties right down the middle (well, okay, almost: he wrote 7, she wrote 6, and they grabbed a Keith Frank tune to make an even 14), and it's evident that Puryear's the cat who really capitalizes on The Band sound while also sticking in some Zachary Richard and Beausoleil. Nevins injects more satin into her songs, more velvet,  more femaleness (you know how we rough tough guythings are!), and the contrast (and harmony) with Puryear's work is almost a sigil for the male/female situation, that mystery that philosophers prattle on endlessly about…until they get horny, drop the pretensions, and revel in the differences.

Er…am I waxing too existential myself? Well, listen to Jeb's spoken section in "All Aboard" and then you tell me. Then listen to the rest of the CD. Then sign up for a community college class in Psychology, especially if it features one of those texts in which celebrated philosopher Mark S. Tucker elbows Freud aside and shakes hands with Jung and Szasz (hey, it could happen!).

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