By: Brian Robbins
Don't expect any surprises out of Donna The Buffalo's new disc, Silverlined (Sugar Hill). Just expect to be tickled with a nice serving of front-porch music. Celebrating their 20th anniversary, DTB offers up the sort of musical stew they mastered years ago.
Don't get me wrong; there's nothing boring here, folks, not at all. The worst thing you can say is, "Jeez, that song sounds familiar" on the first pass through the album, and there's not a thing wrong with that. By the second time through, you're trying to sing along with Donna The Buffalo tunes you hardly know … or do you?
No spacey jams or long groove chugs here, DTB gets in and out in just under 48 minutes with thirteen songs written by one or the other of the group's two original Buffalos, Tara Nevins (vocals, fiddle, accordion, acoustic guitar, scrub board) or Jeb Puryear (vocals, electric guitar – and for the first time on a studio album – pedal steel). However, you can easily spot the places that'll be jump-offs for stretching things out in a live setting.
Nevins can sing a song about heartbreak (take the lead-off track, "Temporary Misery," for example) and give it such an upbeat delivery that you might miss the pain within – in this case, backed by a quasi-reggae beat. Other neat Nevins moments include "Locket And Key" (doesn't hurt to have buds like Bela Fleck hang out with his banjo) and "Broken Record," with its driving acoustic guitar rhythm and intimations of what could be a wicked Strat and fiddle jam on a concert stage. Elsewhere, David Hidalgo (Los Lobos) backs Nevins with some sweet harmonies on the title track.
While Nevins is a cool mix of sweet and tough, Puryear is like the gas station attendant who leans in your window while your tank's filling and casually tells you his life story – only not so creepy. No rock star/guitar god posturing here, ol' Jeb's just the real thing. "Tomorrow Still Knows" is a typical example of his monotone soul, and by virtue of the studio setting, Puryear on Strat gets to duet with himself on pedal steel. "The Call" lays Puryear's life and philosophy wide open in less than four minutes (Amy Helm provides background vocals) with another 60 seconds' worth of beautifully clean no-gimmicks Strat weaving with an acoustic piano to wrap it up.
There's serious stuff here, but Donna The Buffalo never lets it get too heavy, and by the time the rollicking album closer "Forty Days And Forty Nights" is over, you're cool with the album playing ‘round again - so you can sing-along this time.
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