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 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.
Listening to his songs, I visualize all the colorful people and places. I am in the song as a spectator, 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, making them original sounding and not generic. Just when you think you get it, he'll 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. The fingerpicking, hammered guitar strings, and quivering voice is always present in his songs.
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. Seeing his 6'2" frame in a small chair overpowering this tiny guitar was a sight. 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 recognition. One very well-written review of Dondero's 2003 release, The Transient, by the writer Gary Glander for Pop Matters, captures the essence of 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 Discography 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