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by CLARA ROSE THORNTON – Published: February 10, 2011

In 2005, I began working for a music promotions organization called Home Grown Music Network, based out of Mebane, N.C. Founded by radio DJ and music fanatic Lee Crumpton in 1995, it’s a multi-platform company that offers a pool of volunteers, nationwide, willing to promote touring bands in exchange for free music and concert tickets.

Bands are chosen as network members through a rigorous selection process that aims to pinpoint the best independent groups in and surrounding America’s festival scene — bands that don’t fit neatly into simplified genres like “roots rock,” “jam,” or rock‘n’roll’s other current labels.

Once chosen, HGMN (www.homegrownmusic.net) provides several career resources for these groups trudging through the mire of a frenetic — if not negligent — music industry without corporate backing. In addition to the cells of volunteers and fans around the country, bands also get to sell their CDs and merchandise through the well-trafficked website, get added to playlists at affiliate radio stations, and be put in the faces of thousands who might not have heard them otherwise.

HGMN even started its own record label, Harmonized, in 2002.

Needless to say, the folks behind the organization — Crumpton and press/volunteer coordinator Chris Robie — are indefatigable. When I signed on as a volunteer and later a journalist, I received at regular intervals boxes upon boxes of music catalogs, posters, stickers and the best part — free CDs.

I devoured these LPs, EPs, live discs and samplers. In addition to starting my music journalism career, HGMN turned my home into the lush flowering pot of musical mayhem that it remains.

And, as many musicians and promoters know, the relationships between fans and bands of true substance often prove unbreakable.

During this time I discovered Sim Redmond Band from Ithaca, N.Y., whose worldbeat track “All is Not Lost” entered the hallowed ground of my Top 10. I discovered The Bridge, a sumptuous and energetic rock sextet from Baltimore, who, in fact, I’m making a three-hour road trip to see tonight, at Higher Ground in Burlington. I brought my love of them with me when I moved from Chicago to Vermont. That’s the sort of dedication these bands inspire.

Donna the Buffalo was one of these groups. When seeing it in the catalogue, I thought the name was rather strange, but intriguing. It struck me as possibly some Native American band full of environmental activists, people whose concerts included ritual and howls and 10-minute drum jams.

photo by Jim Gavenus

The howls are there, I came to find out, but there are many more whines of the accordion and wisps of Cajun/zydeco tomfoolery involved than riffs on global warming or trance-inducing drum circles. Donna the Buffalo, a 21-year-old cult favorite quintet from Trumansburg, N.Y., is energetic, inventive and soulful, and imagine the thrust down memory lane I experienced when seeing they’d be playing Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction on Saturday. They’ve kept trucking, against the odds for an independent band, and are more popular and prolific than ever.

“We were sitting together in a circle one day, in the earliest days of the band, trying to come up with a name,” recalled co-founder and co-bandleader Tara Nevins, via telephone from the road. “We knew we wanted ‘buffalo’ in there somehow. Someone said ‘Dawn of the Buffalo’ jokingly, mocking a Hallmark sort of theme. But we misheard him and thought he said ‘Donna the Buffalo.’”

“We started laughing, because these things get silly sometimes, and couldn’t stop laughing,” Nevins continued. “We thought it sounded cool and it stuck.”

Nevins — who contributes accordion, scrubboard, fiddle, guitar and vocals — founded Donna the Buffalo with guitarist/vocalist Jeb Puryear in Ithaca, N.Y., in 1990. Nevins had been a longtime fiddle player, and she and Puryear began writing songs together with no definitive plan in place, just exercising creativity in that college town’s rich musical milieu. After returning from a trip to southwest Louisiana for Mardi Gras, she was so deeply inspired by the Cajun and Creole music she’d encountered that she added a zydeco flair to her playing, soon recruiting more members and solidifying the sound of the fledgling band.

Through two decades on the road and seven albums, the band has garnered a dedicated fanbase, coining itself “The Herd.” Puryear’s and Nevins’ poetic lyrics that contemplate life’s longing, losses and exuberance, along with the occasionally kitschy, though upbeat and fun, Louisiana-inspired soundscapes provide quite the singular concert experience. For example, just yesterday, when mentioning my Nevins interview on my Facebook page, a Bellows Falls friend named Dagan Selbach-Broad immediately got excited and responded, “I love Donna the Buffalo! I’ve seen them over 40 times!”

Nevins will release a solo album entitled “Wood and Stone” in April on Sugar Hill Records. Donna the Buffalo’s show on Saturday at Tupelo Music Hall, a BYOB venue, begins at 8 p.m.

Two other concerts occur in southern Vermont this weekend in that road warrior spirit of purity, that essence of which Home Grown Music Network lauds and nurtures.

The first, incidentally, is also a Home Grown band and a zydeco band, Buckwheat Zydeco, from Lafayette, La.

Buckwheat Zydeco

Buckwheat Zydeco is the stage name of accordion player Stanley Dural Jr., born in 1947. He’s one of the only traditional zydeco acts to achieve mainstream, pop culture success; the band is a household name among southern music fans.

He brings his group, formerly billed as “Buckwheat Zydeco and Ils Son Partis Band” to the Bellows Falls Opera House at 8 p.m. tonight.

And tomorrow, San Antonio, Texas, alternative-country songbird Rosie Flores brings her distinctive mixture of Tex-Mex, rockabilly, honky tonk and jazz/swing to Boccelli’s On the Canal in Bellows Falls at 7:30 p.m.

It’s a weekend of from-the-heart, multicultural creative whimsy happening around our stomping grounds. Throw your best “devil may care” glance to the snow and add your yelp.

Clara Rose Thornton is a freelance cultural critic and arts journalist originally hailing from Chicago who now lives in an artists’ colony in Bellows Falls. She can be reached at clara@inkblotcomplex.com, or through her website, clararosethornton.com. Follow her at twitter.com/ClaraRose.

READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE POST HERE: http://rutlandherald.com

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Please visit the Home Grown Music Network’s site to vote for the best HGMN album of the year! THIEF is on the list– hint hint 😉

Check out this great review of Keller and the Keels, Thief, in Acoustic Guitar Magazine this month!

Who knew Amy Winehouse’s neo-soul hit “Rehab” would make a great bluegrass burner? On this mischievous collection of covers by jam-man Keller Williams with flatpicker Larry Keel and upright bassist Jenny Keel, a follow-up to their 2006’s Grass, the trio also tackles the Grateful Dead’s tripped-out “Mountains of the Moon,” Cracker’s cheeky “Teen Angst.” and more stylistically straightforward fare such as Kris Kristofferson’s “Don’t Cuss the Fiddle” and Danny Barnes’s “Get It While You Can.” Williams takes the mando role in this group, adding the bluegrass chops not on an actual mandolin but on a high-tuned Veillette mini-12-string guitar with the top two string courses removed. That leaves plenty of sonic room for Larry Keel’s superfine flatpicking runs and cross-picked rolls, played on a Santa Cruz OM and recorded in sumptuous acoustic detail. In keeping with the repertoire, the vibe of Thief is loose and playful, with all the tracks performed live except for harmony vocals. The trio indulges in a bit of space jamming but overall keeps a light focus on this odd and witty batch of songs, proving along the way that the grass is green out in left field. (SCI Fidelity)

-JEFFREY PEPPER RODGERS

TO SEE THE ORIGINAL POST PLEASE VISIT ACOUSTIC GUITAR MAGAZINE: http://www.acousticguitar.com/article/default.aspx?articleid=25669

Remember to visit the Home Grown Music Network’s site to vote for the best HGMN album of the year! THIEF is on the list– hint hint 😉 http://www.homegrownmusic.net/form/vote-for-the-hgmn-2010-album-of-the-year

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