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Home on the Range
by Haven James

Preview: Donna the Buffalo at Joyous Lake

rockin in the weary land

Expect a stampede to the watering hole on Mill Hill Road this Saturday, August 22 [1998], when Donna The Buffalo cuts grooves in the dance floor and fills the breeze with honeysuckle melodies. An American roots band, this sextet will be Rockin' In The Weary Land live (Sugar Hill Records: SHCD-3877) at the Joyous Lake, the Ulster County stage stop on the trail north from the Towne Crier in Pawling, where they're playing Friday night.

The record's got a good hook, and the band's gigs are said to be dance-a-thons. According to Tara Nevins, who writes and sings much of Donna The Buffalo's material, "We're going to rock the house!" Their style is a creative blend of old-timey, Cajun/zydeco, folk, Tex-Mex, rock 'n' roll, and reggae with a splash of cowgirl laid on top. Projecting strong vocals laced with harmonies that are sweet and comfortably simple, lyrics that say something worth listening to, and instruments that sound like what they are, the 98% original repertoire is a fresh breath of air. Infectious accordions, fiddles that bow in the wind, cherry-roots guitar licks that go somewhere and crisp drums mix with the cicada clicks of the rubboard to make you want to move with the music.

The instrumentation alone reveals a lot about the sound. Jeb Puryear, who complements Nevins by writing and singing an equal portion of the set list, plays acoustic and electric guitars. Joe Thrift plays Lowery and Hammond B-3 organs, synthesizers, Wurlitzer piano, rubboard, and adds vocals; Jim Miller picks electric and acoustic guitars and sings harmony and occasional lead; Jed Greenberg plays bass and sings harmonies; Tom Gilbert chops the drums, and Nevins plays electric fiddle, accordion, acoustic guitar, rubboard and tambourine, and, of course, sings (folkies might draw a parallel to Mary McCasslin). The band is a veritable musical herd.

This will be Donna The Buffalo's first headlining appearance in Woodstock (they did play a short set at the Tinker Street Cafe about a year ago as part of a multi-band show). Based in Ithaca, the group came together as musicians sharing a common interest in old-time fiddle music. Though they park their vintage tour bus in Ithaca and maintain an office there, the members actually live up and down the East Coast as far south as North Carolina. Through the festival network, they started getting into all kinds of roots/traditional music including Cajun and zydeco. "All of us have always been great admirers of Bob Marley and we all like country music a lot," says Tara. "We were never real, like, rock 'n' roll musicians ... we just started playing electric instruments about 10 years ago and this is what came out. It wasn't just rock 'n' roll, it wasn't just country, it wasn't just reggae--it was kind of a combination of the influences that we had been enjoying and been a part of for quite a few years."

As to the music, they write most all of it; there's one cover tune on the record, and that's the only one they do. "Jeb writes and I write and we just bring them to the band and the band joins in and everybody finds their part and we trim it up, trim it down," says Tara, adding that the Louisiana influence is "mainly a zydeco thing ... We're all big fans of zydeco, but several years ago I got totally in love with zydeco music and started to learn to play zydeco on one-row accordion. Over time, as I've been able to play recognizably, it just naturally worked itself in." Two songs on the CD are "very audibly a take-off on the zydeco beat," she notes--both the lead cut, "Tides of Time," and one co-written by Tara and Jeb with the lyrics "We've got your dream Mr. King," step out strong with squeeze-box rounds.

Looking forward to a crowd of Hudson Valley dancers, Tara offers an idea of what to expect Saturday night: "[The] show follows the flow of the record; we'll be full tilt, [and] probably do two sets. We just do our thing." And, in addition to the live versions, they'll add "a whole slew of other songs" of which "90% is dance music ... fast, slow, medium tempo; the groove is such that people dance all night."

Advance tickets can be booked through the Joyous Lake/FLS Management hot-line at 679-0214 or via their web site which can be linked from Werewolves on the Web at Tuned-In To Hudson Valley Music. There's a bonus special this week at the site: we'll be featuring a CD give-away contest for the new Donna The Buffalo release. Thanks to Sugar Hill Records, you can win a copy of Rockin' In The Weary Land free, and the odds of winning are much better than Lotto or SuperBall. If you just want to give a listen to the band's sound, you can do that too; there will be RealAudio clips from a variety of the songs from the record available at the site to sample, plus, links to the Buffalo's own cyberplains. So saddle up and ride on down to the oasis Saturday night--this is a fun, up band, and a good tonic for the spirit and soul.

Haven James has been a consistent contributor to the Music & Arts scene around the Hudson Valley and beyond for almost a decade through his column, Werewolves of Woodstock, published weekly in the Woodstock Times

A writer, musician, philanthropist, and Mac addict; he lives reclusively, high atop Overlook Mountain with his son and a menagerie of animals, both wild and domesticated. Though currently unmarried, rumors abound as to his intimate relationships with Madonna, Sandra Bernhardt, and Eli Bach; though he insists these notions to be pure hearsay. His identity has remained a mystery to all but the closest of friends as he often travels in disguise and appears unannounced and undercover at concerts and venues in a dedicated effort to get the real story.

Go to the Werewolves of Woodstock page for more articles by Haven James.
Haven James can be contacted at

Posted on August 19, 1998

Previous featured articles More articles by Haven James

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Listen to Donna the Buffalo's rockin' in the weary land

each and every direction
mr. king
seminole wind

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Sorry, this contest is over. Congrats to Richard Merck, Kingston, New York, and Preston Repenning, Saugerties, New York, who each won a copy of this CD!

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