said you’d love me for a week or more 

that’s a week I cannot afford

There’s a high-profile release coming down the pipes wherein a bunch of pale dudes take unrecorded Basement-Tapes-era Dylan lyrics and make new songs out of them the way Bragg & Wilco did with Guthrie. The Basement Tapes (and the entire Band catalogue) was one of the first pieces of music that held The Big Mystical Sway over me growing up. The Old Weird America, Greil Marcus called it, and that phrase alone was enough to detonate my puny imagination. I grew up in the South, I saw snippets of weird America day-to-day, but was it in music anymore? I pursued many contemporary bands based on media comparisons to The Band and most of them sucked. Some of them were good on their own merits, like My Morning Jacket, but their Band-ness was so far removed, or so mischanneled, that it hardly seemed worth mentioning. I imagine it’s hard convey The Band because that entails conveying five distinct musicians and their specific relationships to each other. I think Band-ness works well when new bands isolate one of those elements and try to further that: Glossary’s “Little Caney” is the best example for me, the organ line resembles stuff Manuel and Hudson played on organ.

It doesn’t really matter whether those pale white dudes make a nice record or not because another Bob Dylan and/or Band tribute will be out next year. There’s a recent tribute dedicated solely to 80’s Dylan, which is exactly up my alley, but that still seems so fleetingly interesting and mediocre when compared to this group of musicians I’m supposed by talking about in this review. I’ve mentioned the band Mail the Horse in two recent reviews, Yazan and Doolittle & the Raiders, and it is these same guys who are behind Donny Dinero. The motherband, Mail the Horse, features Donny Amidon and Michael Hesslein on songwriting/singing duties, backed by William Lawrence, Chris May, and Brendan Smith. In their solo projects, Donny Amidon is Donny Dinero and Michael Hesslein is Mickey Doolittle. Is the lineage clear now? Anyway, this album is by Donny Dinero. Doolittle serves up Band-like organ lines in the opening track “Thought You Were a Woman” and from there on the album’s a dusky hour in weird america.

I raised all that Band-ology stuff in order to talk about why Donny Dinero and the Mail the Horse guys are more Band-like than other bands, how I think their modern conveyance of The Band is more wholistic than any I’ve heard, how this feels like Danko getting to lead The Band for an extended set, but now that I’m at that point I don’t want to get into it–because who am I to say what is and isn’t Band? Let’s say Band is a state of being and these guys are in it. Five charismatic musicians who display a lovely relationship to each other on all the projects they collaborate on. This Donny Dinero album is a fucking great set of songs.

Thought You Were a Woman

Stream and savor and buy Gates on Gates at Donny Dinero’s bandcamp. Here’s Mail the Horse. Here’s Doolittle & the Raiders again (they already put out another single since my last review). Track Donny Dinero on Facebook.


Author: Mike Ostrov

Mike Ostrov relays the history of popular song on message boards and under rocks.