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‘Herd’ likely helped Donna the Buffalo to silver anniversary

By Courtney Devores
Correspondent

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    Donna the Buffalo

    With fellow world-jam stalwarts Rusted Root.

    WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday.

    WHERE: Amos’ Southend, 1423 S. Tryon St.

    TICKETS: $17.50-$20.

    DETAILS: 704-377-6874; www.amossouthend.com.



A silver anniversary may seem like an important milestone for some bands, but the quarter-century mark sneaked up on Donna the Buffalo, the Trumansburg, N.Y., jam/roots outfit that’s been mixing uplifting country, zydeco, reggae, and folk since 1989.

“Time flies, and one day, you’re doing it for 25 years,” said fiddler and co-vocalist Tara Nevins. “We never thought about doing anything else.”

Its current tour with Rusted Root brings the group to Amos’ Southend on Tuesday.

The milestone wasn’t on the band’s mind when making its latest album, “Tonight, Tomorrow & Yesterday,” despite a title that tells of looking in both directions on the timeline.

“We weren’t thinking 25 years or anything,” she said. “We hadn’t recorded in a few years, so we really needed (a record), and we had new songs.”

While its predecessor “Silverlined” was recorded in several studios and at different times and areas of the country, the group gathered at an old church in upstate New York and recorded live to two-inch analog tape for “Tonight.”

“We sat around in a circle and played. It was a laid-back approach to making a record,” Nevins said.

The idea was to record with the vinyl release in mind. The stripped-down, organic feel of “Tonight, Tomorrow & Yesterday” sounds ready-made for the format.

Twenty-five years isn’t as unheard of in the live music-centered world of jam bands frequenting the festival circuit, where longevity is less dependent on radio hits than it is on a passionate fan base like Donna the Buffalo’s “Herd.” Nevins also noted that a revolving cast of players have added fresh blood to the creative side anchored by co-founder Jeb Puryear and her.

Since its early years, Donna the Buffalo has enjoyed a sort of second home in North Carolina. Past members Jay Sanders (Acoustic Syndicate) and Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses) are North Carolinians, and Donna the Buffalo has hosted the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival in Chatham County since 2003.

“Jeb and I play old-time Appalachian fiddle, and we’d been traveling to North Carolina for years for fiddle conventions,” Nevins said. “We were part of a community that played that style of music. When we started playing in North Carolina, we seemed to connect with the folks there and the radio station in Spindale – WNCW – was very supportive in spreading our music. Then we were hired at Merlefest early on. We played that practically every year since. That has been a huge part of our growing fan base in North Carolina.”

From playing fiddle in festival parking lots to performing and starting their own festivals, Nevins has watched the scene grow. But she doesn’t see the popularity of music festivals as a result of the mainstreaming of festival culture through huge gatherings such as Bonnaroo.

“Festivals are fertile ground for community and people to come together,” she says. “They’re more and more popular because of that. They’re positive.”

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