‘Cluster Flies’: Daniel Donato Covers Phish’s ‘Back On The Train’

By Team JamBase Apr 17, 2021 8:00 am PDT

JamBase presents Cluster Flies, a covers compilation reimagining Phish’s album Farmhouse, complete with bonus songs and revamped tracklist. The limited-edition 3LP release was mastered by engineer Joe Lambert and includes custom artwork and a poster created by longtime Phish collaborator Jim Pollock. A pre-order is underway now through May 3 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. Visit www.clusterflies.com for purchasing information as well as full album credits and tracklist details.

Each of the songs on Cluster Flies will be featured via daily episodes of The JamBase Podcast with interviews with the musician that recorded the cover. Today’s episode features Nashville-based singer-songwriter Daniel Donato‘s cover of “Back On The Train.”

Phish‘s “Back On The Train” appears as the fourth track on Farmhouse. Penned by guitarist Trey Anastasio and longtime collaborator Tom Marshall, the rollicking tune has been a staple of the band’s live repertoire since its Phish debut on June 30, 1999.

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Anastasio premiered “Back On The Train” at the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis on May 4, 1999 during his first solo tour. While Trey didn’t perform “Back On The Train” on opening night of the 12-show tour, he did play the song at each of the run’s 10 concerts that followed the gig in Indianapolis. Each came within the acoustic set that kicked off every show of the tour before the guitarist teamed with bassist Tony Markellis and drummer Russ Lawton for the second set and encore.

Phish performed “Back On The Train” 126 times since the first night of their Summer 1999 tour at the abovementioned show at Sandstone Amphitheatre in Bonner Springs, Kansas. “Piper” and “Twist” are the only songs from Farmhouse Phish has played more than “Back On The Train.”

The song is rooted in Americana and is among the most Grateful Dead-esque originals in the Phish repertoire making it a perfect fit for Nashville-based singer-songwriting guitarist Daniel Donato. Daniel, known for his signature brand of “cosmic country” and masterful Telecaster work, is a huge Grateful Dead fan that has a growing appreciation for the music of Phish.

Daniel embedded his own sound into “Back On The Train” while staying true to the original. Watch Donato perform “Back On The Train” at Sound Emporium Studios in Nashville with Nick Fry on acoustic guitar and harmony vocals, Jon Radford on drums and harmony vocals, Jake Bostick on bass and harmony vocals and Daniel Pingrey on keyboards in the video below:

Stream Daniel Donato’s cover of Phish’s “Back On The Train” for JamBase’s Cluster Flies compilation here:

Donato spoke with JamBase’s Scott Bernstein about the process that led to his Cluster Flies contribution, which included a call to Sigma Oasis producer Vance Powell and had him consider, “If [Phish] could go out cut ‘Back On The Train’ today for the first time what would it sound like?” The 26-year-old musician also explained how the assignment resulted in him taking a deep dive into Phish recordings, recalled his experience busking at Phish shows as a youngster and detailed the band he put together for his version of “Back On The Train.”

Hear the “Back On The Train” Cluster Flies episode of The JamBase Podcast below or through all major podcast services including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Google Podcast:

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