Interview by Scott Preston
Donna the Buffalo is twenty years young and as energized as ever. Their 7th record, Silverlined, which was released on July 8, 2008 on Sugar Hill Records, builds on Donna the Buffalo’s signature sound: a bedrock of traditional mountain music infused with elements of Cajun, rock, folk, reggae and country. Throughout Silverlined, these undulating rhythms carry the original lyrics, and alternating vocals, of founding members Tara Nevins and Jeb Puryear along a powerful, mesmerizing current.
Unlike their last record, Life’s A Ride, which was recorded in DTB’s home studio (The Tracking Shack, in Perry City, New York), Silverlined went many miles, and has many hands in its making. Only one track was recorded in their home studio; two were recorded at Yes Master studio in Nashville, Tennessee, ten at Echo Mountain in Asheville, North Carolina, and several vocal tracks were laid down at Sound Cell Studio in Huntsville, Alabama. Silverlined was co-produced with — and engineered by — New York-based recording engineer Joe Blaney, whose eclectic list of clients includes the diverse talents of Keith Richards, Prince, Blues Traveler, Tom Waits, The Neville Brothers and Rosanne Cash.
Cincy Groove: With Donna The Buffalo celebrating their 20th Anniversary last year, how would you explain the longevity of the band?
Jeb Puryear: We are lucky enough to have a good musical chemistry, especially with the changes over the years. Somehow the band has maintained a certain spirit and personality that lets people plug into what we are doing.
Cincy Groove: DTB seems to have some pretty dedicated fans.
Jeb Puryear: We definitely have good, solid support. The audience really helps us keep that musical spirit especially when there are changes in the band or if we are going through rough times. We have been very lucky to have the fans that we do have.
Cincy Groove: How did Donna The Buffalo get together?
Jeb Puryear: Originally I grew up playing a lot of old time fiddle music. That’s how I met Tara, we are both old time fiddlers. Its really a great form of music to get together with a bunch people and play. Tara was writing songs and I was writing songs, so we decided to get a gig. We were playing with a lot of the same people we were playing old time music with.
Cincy Groove: Has the writing/recording process changed much for the band over the years?
Jeb Puryear: We are constantly writing songs, so after a while they build up and then we’ll decide to make a record. Then of course there are times when we write a couple at the last second to put on a record. In a way the process really hasn’t changed that much. I would say with our last record we were having more fun with the music and recording process.
Cincy Groove: I know the record Silverlined just came out recently, but is DTB working on any other projects?
Jeb Puryear: Not at the moment. But it would be fun to pick up the pace a bit with making the records. Maybe put one out every couple years. We have a habit of starting a record then stopping then starting again. Its hard sometimes to find time because we make our living touring.
Cincy Groove: What special guests did you have on the record?
Jeb Puryear: There were a lot of them, Bela Fleck, David Hidalgo, Amy Helm, Claire Lynch, Deep Singh among others. That’s part of what made the record so fun, by having all these different people come on jam.
Cincy Groove: Where did the name Donna The Buffalo come from?
Jeb Puryear: Well we needed a name, and first problem you have when your in a band is that you need to call it something (laughing). The suggestion came up that Buffalo should be in the name. Then somebody suggested “Dawn of the Buffalo”. Somehow it ended up getting changed to “Donna the Buffalo”.
Cincy Groove: What do you like to do to kill time in between gigs?
Jeb Puryear: Well some writing gets done. I have an 8 year old son that travels with me a lot. So that doesn’t leave a whole lot of extra time. But really we feel lucky to be able to play music for a living. It shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Donna The Buffalo:
Tara Nevins – vocals, guitar, fiddle, accordion, washboard
Jeb Puryear – lead guitar, vocals
Tom Gilbert – drums
David McCracken – keyboards
Jay Sanders – bass
Locket and Key
Upcoming Donna The Buffalo tour dates:
for show details visit www.donnathebuffalo.com
THU. JAN 22, 2009 Lexington, KY Kentucky Theater
FRI. JAN 23, 2009 Nashville, TN The Loveless Barn
FRI. FEB 6, 2009 Philadelphia, PA World Cafe Live
SAT. FEB 7, 2009 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom
WED. MAR 25, 2009 Knoxville, TN Bijou Theater
THU. MAR 26, 2009 – SUN. MAR 29, 2009 Live Oak, FL Suwannee Springfest
THU. APR 16, 2009 – SUN. APR 19, 2009 Silk Hope, NC Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival
FRI. APR 24, 2009 N Wilkesboro, NC Merle Fe
SAT. JUL 4, 2009 – SUN. JUL 5, 2009 Sherman (Panama ), NY The Great Blue Heron Festival
THU. JUL 16, 2009 – SUN. JUL 19, 2009 Trumansburg, NY Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival
SAT. JUL 25, 2009 Floyd, VA Floyd Fest
Donna The Buffalo fan site – http://www.donnafans.com