Review: Donna The Buffalo – Tonight, Tomorrow & Yesterday

OK let me say it upfront, this ain’t Bluegrass. So why is this review appearing on the HVBA website? Simple, this is a great album by a great band.

Donna the Buffalo is one of the most respected “Americana” bands on the scene today. “Americana” music, that ubiquitous term that refers to a combination of American musical traditions and styles including folk, traditional, country, blues, and other “roots” music forms. But the label hardly fits the experience.

Donna the Buffalo has been around nearly 25 years. Led by founding members Jeb Puryear on guitar and vocals and Tara Nevins on guitar, vocals, fiddle, cajun accordion and scrubboard, the current lineup consists of David McCracken on organ and keyboards, Kyle Spark on bass and Mark Raudabaugh on drums.

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“One Day At A Time”

Hailing from Trumansburg, NY, a town in New York’s finger lakes region that has always been a haven of old-time music, their particular brand of Americana incorporates traditional, rock, country, reggae and zydeco to form a delicious blend of rhythmic driving tunes. I recently had the opportunity to see DtB perform at the Bearsville Theatre in Woodstock, where they performed a majority of the tunes on this album. The audience was packed with longtime fans, affectionately know as The Herd, and it didn’t take long before the place was on fire.

This was an amazing night of music. It’s extraordinary the way this band plays together. Their musicianship is top notch, but the thing that was most amazing about this particular performance is how much they enjoy playing together. You can see how into the music they are and just the fact that they have so much fun together made the experience truly memorable. They have an uncanny ability to lock into the groove and take the audience right along with them.

So what about this CD? The tunes highlight the various styles and nuances that makes this band great. Puryear and Nevins are both accomplished songwriters. Their songs, written both together and individually are at times fun, at times touchingly beautiful, and neither writer is afraid to address political or socially conscious themes. Let me give you a few highlights.

The first track, “All Aboard” really gives you a sense of what’s to come on the rest of the disc. It has an easy, likable feel that, as the hook says, “makes me feel good.”

“Workin On That” typifies the bands ability to communicate important themes, in this case a commitment to peace, love and justice and their view that we, as a people, can get to a better place. Or in the case of “Spinning World,” the message focuses on the social challenges we face as ‘the world is spinning from the human race” while “we try to keep from making the same mistakes.”

“One Day At A Time” features a beautiful lyric about relationships and a really nice vocal by Tara Nivens.

“Why You Want To Leave Me Baby” is a particular favorite. Here Nivens kicks off a cool groove on cajun accordion, and the band folds in with a hard driving rhythm, laying the foundation for some nice guitar work by Puryear.

Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday, co-produced with Robert Hunter is the band’s first studio album in 5 years. The 14 tracks were recorded live on an analog tape and really highlights the incredible versatility of this eclectic band. Welcome back!


Sugar Hill Records

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