When Donna the Buffalo performs at Mississippi Nights next Wednesday, it's entirely possible the band won't play a single song from their most recent release, Wait 'Til Spring. If they do, the songs won't sound anything like the recorded versions. That's because the first album by this intriguing group in over two years is actually in collaboration with country singer Jim Lauderdale, who wrote and sang on every track. Wait 'Til Spring is Lauderdale's third release in just over a year, and his previous one was in collaboration with Ralph Stanley, who has recorded and performed with members of Donna the Buffalo as well. The band's trademark sense of groove snugly fits with Lauderdale's classic country-infused pop.
With roots in many styles, from folk to country to soul to zydeco to reggae, Donna the Buffalo has rhythmic variety. Yet they have a distinctive, insistently staccato approach to beats which gives them a consistent sound across diverse styles. Twin lead guitars from Jeb Puryear and Jim Miller, fiddle or accordion from Tara Nevin, keyboards from Kathy Ziegler, bass from Jed Greenberg, and drums from Tom Gilbert all stay on top of the beat, creating a spectacularly effective drive to their music. For fifteen years now, Donna the Buffalo has been honing its approach, playing hundreds of concerts, not worrying too much about doing what is expected. In concert, this band stretches out and jams but almost never loses sight of the song at hand. The musicians are intimately connected with their source material. These are folk musicians with electric instruments, not rockers trying on diverse hats.