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David Dondero
"The Transient"
by: Sun-J

When you think of David Dondero, think of Jack Johnson, Ben Harper and Edwin McCain (and not that ultra poppy song, "I'll Be"). David Dondero's music is more on the folk side, but a similar acoustic soloist with vocal renderings which are reminiscent of The Shins. A well traveled man, Dondero's latest release (as a solo artists), The Transient is a reclusive soundtrack to the Steinbeck novel, Travels With Charlie. A nomad with a penchant for guitar licks, and an amazing finger-picking rhythm which is further mystified by his acute ability to vocally ride what he is playing, Dondero previously lent his talents to the alternative-rock outfit Sunbrain which released three albums before going their separate ways in 1996. Next came the free-willed act Flatwheelers which I believe lasted less than a year. Finally David Dondero wised up and chose the path of a vagabond soloist. Though the bands were not a complete waste by any measure. On a Sunbrain tour, Dondero caught faces with Mike Mogis the man with a studio which housed the recording of The Transient along with the production/engineering aid of several other Lincoln, Nebraska natives. The result is a free spirited folk album with lucid guitaring and metaphorically enchanting lyricism.

Dondero opens The Transient with "Living and the Dead," a country twang influenced song with characteristic establishing verbiage, "I play the skinny indie white boy blues, in scuffed up military style shoes, I'm a convenience store connoisseur on a broken shoe string tour..." "Ashes on the Highway" features stand out lyrics sung with grace which directly reflect the nature of Dondero's life, a true drifter or wanderer who embraces the whole country as home. "When I die, burn my body and sprinkle my ashes on the highway, Let the traffic spread the ashes in ditches and the overpasses." "20 Years" is a tragic tale about a man who has served twenty years in a correctional facility and has dramatically corrected his characteristic errors yet is greeted by a society that still views him in the same impure light as before as he struggles to find work. The nonchalant melody of "See it Clear" is almost a perfect interlude and transition into "Less Than Air," a beautiful ballad stretching the importance of appreciating god given grace and nature rather then being consumed by our own self loathing, "You're not the only one who got caught in rain, This whole world don't revolve around your pain." On "The Stars are my Chandelier," Dondero paints a perfect mental image with stand out metaphors, "I could say my love is bigger than the big apple, like oxyphenbutazone in scrabble/just like the stars are my chandelier, just like these landscapes are my living room, just like these highways are veins, I am the blood, I am the rain." "Vaporize" is a deep rooted tribal percussion driven track about a mountain climber who never lives to see a trip down. The following track, the title song, is a silhouette ballad with translucent melodies encompassing the passion of the album, which finishes with "Song for the Civil Engineer," a tickling topic which covers the tale of gravel and roads before they came to be with the aid of a Civil Engineer.

Lyrically, Dondero produces all that is asked for in a folk album with grand tales enchanted by vivid metaphors. But in my opinion what stands Dondero out above the folk crowd is his musicianship with the guitar. His ability with his axe is graceful and endearing, and evolves from the typical strumming we are used to hearing from a folk artist. A subtle album with grand potential.


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