David Dondero is a modern-day troubadour, a minstrel, a bard, a rolling stone, a traveling wilbury — he gets around, and wherever he goes, he makes music. He’s been getting around to odd parts of America, making music — of a primarily transient, narrative, and acoustic variety, in the tradition of great American troubadours of decades past — since the early ’90s. Originally he did it with a band called SUNBRAIN, with whom he recorded three albums, before opting to go it alone. Since that decision, Dondero has recorded seven studio album and one live one.
Most striking about Dondero’s music is his voice — which isn’t the most tuneful, but is confident, varied, emotional, and direct, nicely suiting his musical style — and his great guitar fingerpicking, which sometimes sounds like it came straight out of the Appalachian mountains, sometimes sounds bluesy, and sometimes even sounds vaguely classical. Other stark instrumentation — lonesome accordion, harsh echoing percussion, and most of all, lots of fiddle — connects Dondero further with the American folk tradition. Some songs are rock-minded, some desolate and hushed, some are detached, some extraordinarily confessional, some are twisted, some straightforward, some are happy, and some sad. But all bear the mark of a quality songwriter who knows a thing or two about living.
Here’s what Dondero had to say about his new album, # Zero with a Bullet, out August 20th via Affairs of the Heart:
Have you ever gone from Berlin to Tasmania? Then, from the Klutina River in Alaska down to San Francisco via Honolulu, Austin, and on to Frogmore, SC? All in one album? Not knowing where to next? Well, that’s where I’ve been and where I’m trying to get. The great not knowing… like a wind that’s blowing, rolling… “Wherever you go, then there you are.” The holy unforgiving blacktop sanctuary has become a wife and family to me. This is the 7th installment in a series of words put to soundscape which paint the picture of my life. Jobs, love affairs, battles with bottles and so on. # Zero with a Bullet. The title… yeah, I know where I stand in the game. Doesn’t mean I’m not gonna keep playing. I didn’t think I had another song in me, but here we go again. They just crept up and wouldn’t leave me alone; wouldn’t let me sleep! I don’t even know where the hell they came from or remember how they got here. These goddamned songs!
This album is chock full of Yogi Berra-isms, shattered Kerouacian dreams, “Air Conditioned Nightmares”, beer bellies, big belt buckles, cowboy monkeys, and an extremely subtle bloody human sacrifice. It’s a reflection of broken hearts and busted wallets. Carolina moons, and the process of lightning striking the fire from a tree. There’s an overzealous job boss talking down to his employees… and his crew holding him hostage in the end. All the while, a lonely barefoot stripper is so bored with her job, cursing her customers’ neediness, “like little birds in the nest… waiting to be fed… just babies in their momma’s eyes”, she said.
I recorded this one at a nice studio in Omaha, NE called ARC (Another Recording Company) with A.J. Mogis in July 2009. His beard was in full effect. It only took us 2 hours. Just kidding. I thought he did a wonderful job and several friends of old and new met up to eat popcorn and play. I tried to throw in everything in the kitchen sink, but threw out what didn’t work. So, in the end, the sink had just a couple dirty knives and a broken spatula covered in dried up eggs. The meal was good though and the eggs were fresh from the back yard in east Austin… yolks as orange as the sun.
I remember seeing a man on the street ranting and raving drunkenly at Camden Locks, London. An acquaintance of mine said “he’s always Jesus from 12 to 6… then he’s Beelzeebubba from 6 to midnight!” I understood completely. I’m 40 this year… can you believe that? They say 40’s the new 20 right? Well, hell… it’s not a death march… it’s a life march. Gotta live it up now… #1’s and zeros. Look through the screen and what does it tell you? I’ll be the zero… # Zero with a Bullet! – David Dondero (Austin, TX – April 2010)
1. Jesus From 12 to 6
2. Caught The Song
3. Just A Baby In Your Momma’s Eyes
4. # Zero With A Bullet
5. It’s Peaceful Here
6. Carolina Moon
7. Wherever You Go
8. Job Boss
9. All These Fishies Swimmin’ Through My Head
You can hear David on our Frukie Channel
Check Myspace for tour dates.