David Dondero the road wise touring veteran writes songs about his travels touring and the in-between stops along the way. Dondero has supported his life in music, taking on jobs in towns and cities across America. His life is broader than that of a musician who might experience life in a touring bubble. His lifestyle has come with personal sacrifice, but has guided his voice and is reflected in his outstanding songwriting. It is what makes him stand out from so many other songwriters. The cataloging of experiences that few have had and few can tell so sincerely.
He is not fearful of taking on topical subjects like guns, religion and politics and sex. He pens his material like journal entries. Thoughtfully and cleverly and flavored with a little tongue in cheek tone. Like /I was just a tender chicken in the Florida rotisserie - my own sweats basting me...... or / some decisions are incisions - much too late to make revisions - sorry is just a suture...... and his description of his tour van / built in 1973- fossilized technology... his lonesome longings /liquor - come take her place - miss her- make it erase........One of my favorites is his reference to being a convenience store connoisseur, describing the Zagats of highway travel. When I listen to his songs I visualize all the colorful people and places. I am in the song as a spectator and mesmerized by his insightful phrasing, offbeat escapades and vivid descriptions.
The music is in the folk rock tradition but mixed with bluegrass. It is edgy and that's what makes them original sounding and not generic. Just when you think you get it he'll suddenly change the timing with an electric guitar part that's atypical of that style, and it works. He sometimes incorporates banjo, mandolin, drums and horns. Always present in his songs is the finger picking, hammered guitar strings and quivering voice.
I have seen Dondero live four times, twice alone and twice with his talented touring drummer Craig D. I always love seeing him play. It was great to see him energized by an enthusiastic crowd at CMJ Team Love night 2005. He took out his camera to take a picture of the gorgeous audience to send to his mother. He is very endearing. The show was an energetic, high tapping- clapping-stomping show. In an acoustic show at the Knitting Factory tap room in August 2006, a quieter but very determined singer emerged. His guitar broke toward the end of the set. He borrowed a very small guitar from the previous singer. It was a sight to see his 6'2" frame in a small chair overpowering this tiny guitar. Then he sang the most poignant song called the Rothko Chapel singing/ my religion is in nature, art and literature - my religion is in science, music and poetry....... He is presently featuring this demo on his myspace site.
I was thrilled that an NPR host Robin Hilton listed him as one of the 10 best living songwriters. Although I don't generally like lists, I was pleased Dondero received this deserving recognition. One very well written review of Dondero's 2003 release The Transient is by the writer Gary Glander for Pop Matters, captures the essence Dondero the songwriter.
I own his full collection, and didn't want to use this post to review a specific CD. They all have been a personal obsession and I cherish all of them. I am looking forward to his next effort. The demos that he has been featuring on his myspace site have teeth and they bite. The lyrics attack in the political song You Got Love In You. He employs strong and powerful words that remind me of the spirit of early Folk, when words could make a difference.
Check out his Fall tour Dates
The Pity Party 1999
Spider West Myshkin a City Bus 2000
Shooting at the Sun with a Water Gun 2001
The Transient 2003
Live at the Hemlock 2004
South of the South 2005