Donna the Buffalo

Donna the Buffalo
Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday
Sugar Hill Records

American buffalos conjure up images of the Midwest, of vast plains and frontiers, of a young America taking shape, and this is the setting that Donna the Buffalo excels in. Tara Nevins (vocals, acoustic guitar, fiddle, accordion), Jeb Puryear (electric guitar, pedal steel), Mark Raudabaugh (drums), David McCracken (electric keyboard, organ), and Kyle Spark (electric bass) are leaders of “The Herd,” what zealous fans of their music are known as. Stringing together bluegrass, reggae, country, folk, and Crescent City sounds, Donna the Buffalo remain true roots music purveyors, collaborating with artists as disparate as David Hidalgo (Tex-Mex), Mamadou Diabate (kora player), and Bela Fleck (banjo player).

Recording since 1989 but with several line-up changes, Donna the Buffalo release their latest outing, Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday, after 2008’s nicely-received Silverlined. Sticking to vintage analog tape, with few overdubs as needed, the 14-track record gives the comfort of earthiness that roots-flavored fans are familiar with. The chugging “All Aboard” sets the pace for old-time textures but drops to a steady country rhythm in “Don’t Know What You’ve Got.” From here on, the listener will experience alternations of male- and female-fronted lead vocals and both danceable and calming sounds.

The title track and “Love Time” employ upbeat Cajun cadences, with the latter in particular expressing resilience (“We’re gonna make it happen…Heaven knows that you were born to shine”) and American symbolism (grandma, Dick Cheney, President Obama, highest penthouse, lowest corner, East Coast to California). Reggae styling dresses up the lightweight “Mrs. Parsley,” and pronounced Louisiana rock pulses through “Why You Wanna Leave Me?”

Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday shows confidence, authenticity, and a respect for a myriad of traditional sounds. “I Love My Tribe” in particular is a paean to The Herd and to the band members’ versatility and adaptation. “It’s a great feeling to promote such a feeling of community,” Nevins said in a recent interview with the Roanoke Times. “Like you’re really part of something that’s happening, like a movement or a positive force.”

by Jeff Boyce

Dayna Kurtz

Dayna Kurtz
Secret Canon Vol. 2
M.C. Records

Secret Canon Vol. 2, Dayna Kurtz’s new album is steeped in some bold New Orleans flavors.

Christened Female Songwriter of the Year by the National Academy of Songwriters, Kurtz’s distinct style traverses many genres. This album uniquely reflects her musical versatility and the energy of her newfound home in New Orleans.

Though the singer/songwriter pays homage to several blues and R&B greats, Kurtz claims her territory among the masters from the outset. There is no holding back when the album confronts listeners with the first track, “I Look Good in Bad.” Kurtz’s voice seems bottomless when she croons in rich, booming tones, “I’ll find myself a bad boy; I might even learn his name.”

After this cheeky opening, the listener prepares for a wild ride. Kurtz unravels a soulful and poignant narrative with unexpected curveballs along the way.

The track, “Reconsider Me,” exposes the voice and its message with sparse accompaniment along with mournful, yet fierce vocals. The song fades out at its climax, hinting at its permanence.

Though many of the songs harbor grave undertones, Kurtz infuses the album with unaffected confidence. The release comprises references to several different genres and eras, but the authenticity of her voice erases any boundaries the genres pose.

With this new album, Kurtz has immersed herself in the musical and cultural roots of New Orleans. The CD shares a story of passion and raw strength without apology.

by Jacqueline Perrin