What do you say about David Dondero? He’s a songwriter. He’s a master. He’s been doing it a long time and at an astonishingly high level. He unearths shades of disappointment, empathy, compulsion, and fear you’ve never had to face. Like Lou Reed’s novel-through-music aesthetic, Dondero is writing plays as much as he writes songs–sparse but able to contain an entire world through a few perfect choices. “This Guitar” is one of the great touring songs. “Samantha’s Got a Bag of Coal” is a the story of the death of Plan-It-X records founder Sam Dorsett told through a Christmas carol, I think. “Alcohol” is one of the great drinking songs because it’s got such a motherfucking crushing turn of story deep in there.
What do you do with a new David Dondero album? If it knocks at the door, do you let it in, knowing it will absolutely devastate you? If you’re the kind of person who’s opened the door for the John Moreland and Jason Isbell albums this year, you might have to find a chair and save some whiskey for This Guitar. I think the whole point of Essential Listening is that you can’t leave it standing at the threshold.