Donna The Buffalo
“Donna The Buffalo is from central New York state, not Louisiana, but this widely loved quintet has woven that joyful, hip-shaking zydeco pulse into the DNA of its sound, and leaders Jeb Puryear and Tara Nevins have wrapped that core vibe with hopeful, mellow lyrics.” --Music City Roots, Craig Havighurst
Donna the Buffalo just passed the marker as their 25th year as a band and have proven to be a consistent purveyor of American music. What’s the recipe? To be sure, it’s infused with more spices than you’ll find at a Cajun cookout by way of a southern-fried, rockin’ country old-time jamboree. “For the dizzying array of styles and genres with which they work, Donna The Buffalo maintain a surprising level of consistency. The New York-based band has played around with folk, zydeco, and many other musical ideas over the course of their 25-year career, but they retain a sharp focus that has helped them create some truly lasting music,” writes Elmore Magazine.
Donna the Buffalo is Jeb Puryear (vocals, electric guitar) and Tara Nevins (vocals, guitar, fiddle, accordion, scrubboard) joined by David McCracken (Hammond organ, Honer Clavinet & piano), Kyle Spark (bass) and Mark Raudabaugh (drums). “It's been really fun with this lineup,” Puryear says. “You get to the point where you're playing on a really high level, things are clicking and it's like turning on the key to a really good car. It just goes.”
“You have to do just what you want to do, and everyone likes different things,” Nevins says. “Both Jeb and I come from this background of old-time fiddle music, which is very natural, very real, very under-produced, and all about coming from the gut—flying by the seat of your pants. So we have that in us, too.”
Donna the Buffalo debuted their first studio album in five years Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday, in the spring of 2013 via Sugar Hill Records. All Music Guide says the album, “highlights everything this consistent band does, and it has a warm, live-sounding production… This is what 21st century Americana sounds like, a little bit of this and that from anywhere wrapped up into a poignant, jamming dance reel, a place where the past and history meet easily in the immediate now and everybody feels like dancing.”
Donna the Buffalo has released ten albums and are affiliated with several others, including Puryear’s 2007 solo album Hopes and Dreams and a 2003 release, Wait Til Spring, with Jim Lauderdale. The band's 2008 release Silverlined, as well as the 2013 release (both on Sugar Hill) did well on the Americana Music Chart, each placing well into the top ten. In 2011 Nevins released Wood and Stone, produced by Larry Campbell in Levon Helm Studios, and Mule to Ride in 1999 on Sugar Hill Records.
The group draws its inspiration from a cherished part of the American heritage: the old-time music festivals of the south that drew entire towns and counties together. “Those festivals were so explosive, and the community and the feeling of people being with each other, that's the feeling we were shooting for in our music,” Puryear says. “Donna the Buffalo is an extension of the joy we've found.”
Over the years, the band has also built a following that proudly calls itself The Herd, along with a well-deserved reputation for crafting social narratives and slipstream grooves without equal. To merely call this “roots music” does it disservice, for the roots nurtured by Puryear and Nevins run wild, deep and strong—a tribute to how much Donna the Buffalo marries musical trailblazing and tradition.
"It’s a great feeling to promote such a feeling of community, like you’re really part of something that’s happening, like a movement or a positive force…” Nevins says, “All those people that come and follow you and you recognize them and you become friends with them — you’re all moving along for the same purpose. It is powerful. It’s very powerful, actually.”
As an expansion of this community and the band's own dedication to live roots music, Donna started, and are still the driving force behind, the twenty-five year old Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance in Trumansburg, NY, the bi-annual Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival in Silk Hope, NC and the Virginia Key GrassRoots Festival in Miami, FL. DtB are regulars at MerleFest (NC), Suwannee Springfest & Magnolia Fest (FL), All Good (WV), FloydFest (VA), The Great Blue Heron Festival (NY), Del Fest (MD), Rhythm & Roots Festival (RI), Targhee Bluegrass Fest (WY) as well as a variety of other venues and festivals across the nation.
Donna the Buffalo has toured the nation for over twenty five years with an ever-evolving grassroots sound and plans to keep on doing so for many years to come.