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Intimate interview with Tara Nevins on the making of the song “Tennessee River” off the new album “Wood and Stone” (Sugar Hill 2011)

Filmed and produced by JAMerica‘s Peter Conners and Denver Miller


“‘Stars Fell On Alabama’ is Tara’s version of an old standard, while ‘Tennessee River’ sounds like she’s written a new standard.” – Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association

“The highlight of the record, though, might be “Tennessee River”, a song that again sees Nevins turning introspective as crunchy, distorted guitars creak in the background a la 1970s Neil Young. In fact, this song could easily be an outtake from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, with a different vocalist. Again, the disparate elements come together powerfully to provide a neat bookend for the hard-charging opening track. At five minutes, it’s the longest song on the album and one of its most satisfying. “ – David Maine, Pop Matters

“Two surprises on the album are “Stars Fell on Alabama,” in which Nevins turns the ‘30s jazz standard into a bleak, gothic soundscape, and “Tennessee River,” an even more desolate turn recalling the best of Lucinda Williams.” – Aaron Keith Harris, Lonesome Road Review

“‘Tennessee River,’ a dark and gripping song about love’s place in ones’ life, features Campbell’s harrowing, electric guitar wails.” – Bill Clifford – Relix

“If heroes and heroines of rock ‘n’ roll are defined by their uniqueness, they definitely broke the mold when they made Tara Nevins.” – Wildman Steve, The Corner News

“‘Wood and Stone’ is strangely hypnotic at times, with its mesmerizing rhythms and Nevins’ relaxed but commanding delivery. The beautifully dark “Tennessee River” and her cover of the jazz standard, ‘Stars Fell On Alabama,’ are entrancing and highlight Nevins’ beautiful voice” – Boone Mountain Times

“Tara channels swampy accordion and mountain fiddles through a set of songs about heartaches and a longing for the sanctity of family values and a simple home life. The chemistry between Nevins and Campbell cooks up a powerfully convincing sound through tracks like Down South Blues, The Wrong Side and You’re Still Driving That Truck as the duo’s varied strings entwine. But the star turn is the brooding Tennessee River with its big, fat, shimmering guitars and broken heart laid bare. Terrific.” – Properganda

“With the wonderful fiddle groove and vividly written lyrics, Nevins gives a glimpse into her roots. Stepping out for a rare solo record (beyond her beloved band, Donna the Buffalo), she meshes her Cajun influences, unique voice, drums and steel guitars for an intriguing look at her heritage.” – CMT

“A tour de force from start to finish” – Kay Cordtz, Elmore

Visit Tara Nevins website www.TaraNevins.com for more information about the album, a gallery of images, videos, music, and lyrics.

JAMerica is is dial book/ documentary film project that will tell the story of the roots and evolution of the Jam and Festival Scene. Visit www.jamerica.net

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Celebrated Donna the Buffalo artist releases introspective solo album produced by Larry Campbell with guests including Levon Helm, Jim Lauderdale, Allison Moorer, Teresa Williams and more…

Nashville, TN—March 7, 2011 – American roots traditionalist Tara Nevins releases an exploration of her own heritage, musical and otherwise, in Wood and Stone, her first solo album since Mule to Ride in 1999. Wood and Stone showcases her ever-evolving repertoire as she journeys both back to her own “roots” and head-long into new territory.

Tara Nevins. Photo by John D Kurc

Fans of Nevins from her 21-year tenure with Donna the Buffalo are familiar with her versatile talents; she shares the vocal and songwriting responsibilities for the band and is a stellar musician on fiddle, guitar, and accordion. (She plays a mean scrubboard too.) Prior to DTB, Nevins was a founding member of the all-female, old time/Cajun band The Heartbeats. (They join her on two tracks here as well.) Wood and Stone delivers the musical expertise fans have come to expect and surprises with new perspectives.

“This album is personal and sort of revelatory,” Nevins says. “It’s an expression of recent emotional discovery within relationships lost and found, and how knowing the core of who we are is the real deal. There were so many elements I wanted to explore—to combine all the pieces of my personal musical puzzle–and then have it come together in a cohesive whole. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Larry Campbell. I am honored to have had him both produce and play on my record. He’s an amazingly talented and soulful musician. He has a very natural, down-to-earth approach and an instinctual insightfulness that I really appreciate; he really got what I was after. The whole experience was inspiring and challenging in a very positive way.”

Campbell is a much-sought-after musician/producer renowned for his work with Bob Dylan and still rolling from the success of Levon Helm’s two Grammy- winners, Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt, which he produced. He found Nevins’s project immediately compelling. “I liked the feel of the project– her combination of old-time mountain music and original songwriting—and I was taken with Tara’s unique talent; she’s got a distinctive voice—there’s a kind of honesty that shines through.”

The record kicks off with the title cut “Wood and Stone,” and that “honest” element is readily apparent in this touching tribute to home and family. Old-timey acoustics are quickly joined by drums and steel guitars as Nevins sings about “the better part of me” regarding her upbringing and early influences. “It’s got that magical blend of music and lyrics,” Campbell says of it, “and it really paints a picture of where she comes from.”

Ten of the thirteen tracks are originals, and Nevins’s complexity gets a broad stage. She dispenses wit and wisdom with an atypical take on love and relationships through gritty songs such as “You’ve Got It All” and “You’re Still Driving That Truck,” then turns to wrenching hearts with songs like “Snowbird” (accompanied by Jim Lauderdale), a beautiful metaphorical ballad about the pain of loving someone unable to truly give back, and “Tennessee River,” a haunting, gripping song about the stranglehold love can have over a person’s whole existence. “Stars Fell on Alabama” sounds like it fell from her heart and pen too, but Nevins has the capacity to take a well-known standard like this, change the melody, and perform it so ingenuously that it fits in seamlessly to the whole groove of the record.

The record is “framed” by another nostalgic piece, “The Beauty of the Days Gone By” (by Van Morrison), bringing the record full-circle and serving as a sort of catharsis for the dark tone of “Tennessee River”. “I wanted to end the record with it,” Nevins explains, “because I love the sentiment of the song and it’s kind of like ‘the sun always comes back out’ kind of thing. We grow and learn and take our relationships with us for better and for worse and that’s life in all its beauty and glory.”

Nevins’s rare blend of enormous talent coupled with genuine down-home humbleness has won the hearts of fans and colleagues alike. “Tara has this worldly awareness combined with a fragile innocence,” Larry Campbell notes, “which makes her songwriting and music very accessible…very appealing.” Wood and Stone is sure to add to that appeal.

www.sugarhillrecords.com

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Carol Rifkin from the Asheville Citizen times/ Take Five posted this nice preview of Donna the Buffalo for their Orange Peel show on Saturday Jan 29th:

by Carol Rifkin

ASHEVILLE – “Have you herd?” Fans of folk-rock band Donna the Buffalo know that phrase means their favorite group is headed to town.

Led by founding members Tara Nevins and Jeb Puryear, Donna the Buffalo has its own brand of socially conscious songwriting and an eclectic instrumental groove that resonates through infectiously danceable music… … …

“We’ve been together 21 years now, a long time,” Nevins said. Even though 11 members have passed through the group over the years, the musical groove, vision and sound have remained consistent and true to the band’s roots.

“Absolutely, I guess that is because Jeb and I are key members and we write all the songs for the band,” Nevins said.

“Jeb and I are so excited because we just love our new band,” Nevins said. “With Vic Stafford on drums, Kyle Spark on bass and Dave McCracken on keyboard, well, they are such great guys and such great musicians that we are having so much fun playing.”

Stafford and Spark both attended Berklee College of Music, played in a college band together and went on to play with Blueground Undergrass before joining Donna the Buffalo.

“It makes for a great rhythm section,” Nevins said.

“The new band formation is really able to put the songs across well and play the songs well. We are riding a high on that right now, and we feel like the songs are coming across in a way that is just really good music,” Nevins said.

The songwriting team of Nevins and Puryear has written more than 140 songs together over the years. The band’s 2008 release, “Silverlined,” on Sugar Hill Records, was its sixth studio release and rose to No. 8 on the Americana music charts.

Nevins’ catchy song “Locket and Key” was a hit on radio.

“At different times in your life different things happen to you,” said Nevins, talking about her songwriting style. “I definitely write songs that come out of experience. I’m better at that than trying to pick a topic.

“Definitely, on ‘Silverlined,’ that has ‘Locket and Key’ on it, that was true. There are a lot of very personal songs on that CD. I had experienced some pretty intense heartbreak, and it comes through,” she said.

Their songwriting skills have evolved and grown over the years.

“If I have something to say, I’m pretty good at it,” she said with a laugh.

In late February the group will head to Nashville and record its next CD on the Sugar Hill label, and it will include a lot of guest artists. Nevins is waiting for the April release of her second solo CD, “Wood and Stone,” on Sugar Hill.

“It’s produced by Larry Campbell, and we recorded it at Levon Helms studio up in Woodstock, N.Y.,” Nevins said.

All but two of the songs on “Wood and Stone” were written by Nevins. The band will play a couple of Nevins’ new tunes at The Orange Peel concert along with its other feel-good crowd favorites.

. . .    . . .    . . .

Carol Rifkin writes about bluegrass and traditional music for take5. E-mail her atCMRifkin@gmail.com.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: http://m.citizentimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110128/ENT/301280006/-1/pda

 

 

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Donna the Buffalo. Photo by Jim Gavenus

Great post in the Portland, ME Press Herald for Donna the Buffalo’s show at the Empire Dine and Dance tonight!

Check out these excerpts from a preview writeup by AIMSEL PONTI:

“Oh give me a home where Donna the Buffalo roams”

Wow, that was bad. So sorry.

Be that as it may, Donna the Buffalo has a big show tonight at Empire Dine & Dance, and I’m in the throes of “I just discovered a really great band,” hence my reimaging of “Home on the Range.”

This week, I’m also making two suggestions for Friday night with Dan Knudsen at Strange Maine and a CD-release show from Dana Gross at One Longfellow Square. Have at it.

If nothing else, I love the name Donna the Buffalo. However, after spending some time at www.donnathebuffalo.com, I realized that this band from Trumansburg, N.Y., is even cooler than its name. Here’s what I learned: “Donna the Buffalo’s eclectic and often socially conscious music has its base in traditional mountain music and is infused with elements of Cajun/zydeco, rock, folk, reggae, and country.

“The group’s core is vocalist Tara Nevins, who plays fiddle, guitar, accordion and scrub board, and guitarist Jeb Puryear. Keyboardist Dave McCracken, bassist Kyle Spark, and drummer Vic Stafford complete the ensemble.”

So there’s your background, and now here’s five random comments on the band, courtesy of 20 minutes spent at www.myspace.com/donnathebuffalo:

Nevins has a terrific voice.

“Locket and Key” is an entirely enjoyable song, so go listen to it.

I feel entirely late to the party upon learning that this fantastic band has been at it for 21 years.

I dig the lyrics to “No Place like the Right Time.” For example: “Sit and watch the tall grass grow/ I run and hide from the things I know/ Catch the dust up in my eye/ All is lookin’ different as the years go by.”

Puryear also sings, and he’s got a groovy voice, as evidenced in “Positive Friction.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: http://www.pressherald.com/life/go/need-a-palooza-or-a-shot-of-swing-hipsters_-great-stuff-this-weekend_2010-09-16.html

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Donna the Buffalo is playing the Soapbox in Wilmington this Saturday, May 8th after a stop into the Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) on Friday. Check out this great interview with Tara Nevins and Encore Magazine for their May cover story:

Roots Music to Be Reckoned with:

Donna the Buffalo play Soapbox Laundro Lounge on Saturday

By: Adrian Varnam – May 4th, 2010  Encore

For over two decades, Donna the Buffalo has performed all over the country as one of the industry’s most diverse roots-music bands. With a traditional mountain-music core, infused with elements of zydeco, folk, rock, country and even reggae, the band has earned a reputation as one of the most respected, eclectic and hardest-working acts today. With a rabid fanbase (they call themselves “The Herd”), and a schedule that has them performing 10 months out of every year, Donna the Buffalo continues to grow their reach in an ever-assorted musical landscape.

Recently, encore caught up with founding member and multi-instrumentalist Tara Nevins via phone as she drove to meet up with her band at Merlefest, a traditional roots-music festival held every year in Wilkesboro, NC.

encore: What’s Merlefest like as a performer?
Tara Nevins: It’s exciting, and it’s great exposure. . . . It’s as equally exciting playing there as it is just being there. You sort of run into all these musicians that you know that you have camaraderie with, and there’s lots of mixing and matching—a lot of bands sit in with each other. It’s really fun playing with different musicians in an untraditional way. It’s a good vibe, and we’ve always had a really good time.

e: Donna the Buffalo seems to be a perfect poster child for Merlefest—a conglomerate of different styles that form one cohesive unit. How do you go about incorporating various genres into your signature sound?
TN: We don’t try to play different styles of music on purpose. In general, the types of instruments we play lend themselves to that. In the band I play a Louisiana-style of accordion, fiddle, washboard and guitar. So, if I decide to play accordion on a song, it gives it that flavor, or if I play fiddle, there’s another flavor. [Guitarist] Jeb [Puryear] and I both bring songs to the band, and the band just plays the song, and whatever comes out, comes out. It’s nothing like, “Let’s make this one ‘zydeco-ish’ or this one ‘country-ish.’” We never think that way. It’s more like, “Here’s a new song,” and however we play it, we play it. It’s nothing premeditated.

e: Is there a certain style of music that especially resonates with you personally?
TN: Not really. I like traditional fiddle music. I think the core of what Jeb and I do, and what brought us together in what we do in Donna the Buffalo, is old-time fiddle music. But I love Creole music, too. I like what’s good, I think. Jeb and I both have a traditional-music backgrounds, but it mixed with whatever we experienced growing up in the world, whether it be the Beatles or Sheryl Crow or George Jones.

e: How did you become exposed to traditional music like fiddle or zydeco?
TN: I heard traditional fiddle music when I was 18—in school. . . . I got into it on my own and started traveling south, to the mountain areas of North Carolina, Virginia, to the fiddle festivals, and it just grew from there. One year I traveled to Lafayette, Louisiana, to a traditional Mardi Gras festival, and fell in love with the music.

e: Donna the Buffalo has been a band now for over 20 years. How have you all evolved and grown during that time?
TN: As far as the band is concerned, we’ve had many personnel changes—different drummers, different bass players. Jeb and I are the only two original members of the band. Considering that we’ve had so many changes, I think we’ve been pretty good at maintaining a certain thread in our sound and in our music. I just think we keep getting better and better at what we do.

Certain people bring different things to the band, of course, but it all comes together in our signature sound, which is breakthrough-oriented, very groove-oriented, very adaptable, very dance-able. . . . Our songs have evolved some over the years, too. We started out a little more universally socio-political —not heavily political, just more like social commentary. We’ve gone through a few changes the past couple of years; some songs have gotten a little more personal. We’ve definitely grown and evolved.

e: What’s the impetus for the change in themes?
TN: Art always changes—It shapes and flows in different directions. It’s nothing on purpose, it’s whatever your life is bringing you that you write about. I mean, the socio-political may filter back in. It’s art, you know? You paint one painting one day, and then another painting another day, and it’s just whatever you’re feeling or going through at the time. It’s hard to really comment exactly on the timeline, it’s just that different subject matter comes and goes. It’s dynamic and it’s life.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: http://www.encorepub.com/articles.php?i=read&article_id=84&section_id=1

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