album reviews

Donna the Buffalo
Tonight, Tomorrow, and Yesterday
Sugar Hill (2013)

Kindred spirits: Steep Canyon Rangers, the Grateful Dead, the Band.

One part folk group, one part jam band, Donna the Buffalo hones its Americana/roots-rock sound on its 10th studio album, "Tonight, Tomorrow, and Yesterday". In keeping with the quintet's tradition, the two songwriters—guitarist Jeb Puryear and accordionist/fiddle player Tara Nevins—trade off on lead vocals, giving the album the laid-back, organic feel of a summer folk festival.

Several songs stand out. "Don’t Know What We've Got" highlights Nevins's best lead vocals on the album, with her honey tone and lilting rhythm giving a memorable spin to the easygoing tune. The zydeco groove and twirling fiddle melody of album opener "All Aboard" get things started with an infectious energy that even an unnecessary spoken-word interlude can't derail. The group's cover of Keith Frank's "Why You Wanna Leave Me" has a hypnotic vibe thanks to Nevins's entrancing accordion.

"Tonight, Tomorrow, and Yesterday" starts and ends strong but dips in the middle. Nevins's lead on "One Day at a Time" is tedious, while "Love Time" has a reggae groove that brings out the worst in meandering jam-band cliches.

Some songs veer a bit too far into holding-hands-at-the-campfire territory ("Spinning World" and "Working on That" in particular), but there are enough fresh takes on the group's rootsy Americana sound to show that Donna the Buffalo isn't just churning out the jams.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 20 December 2013.
.: Tonight, Tomorrow, and Yesterday on