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.




She trades a shower for bright red lipstick…

Mickey Doolittle (the lounge singer alias of Michael Hesslein) has a varied discography–it all emanates from Brooklyn, it all pays really cool attention to drums, some of it is scuzzy and trippy, some of it is acoustic and twangy. This record, Dark Day to Drive, is all soul-rock-ballads. Driving stoned and sad songs. If you’re driving toward anything, it’s to a convenience store far away enough that you feel anonymous buying a whole bag of Reese’s and more Pall Malls. Everything here is in the key of Springsteen’s “Incident on 57th Street” or “Racing in the Street” or Justin Townes Earle’s Springsteen-y “Rogers Park.” Maybe you don’t want 40 minutes of that (it’s 40 good minutes, trust), but I guarantee you need at least the first song on the record, “Domino Road,” because it’s perfect. The piano intro sounds a lot like Neil Young’s “After the Goldrush,” but it’s perfect! Strings, piano, the voice, the chorus–it’s a holy composition, it’s been touched by pop gods. Mazeltov! A new perfect song emerges from the marble matter of the universe!

Domino Road
Casey Jane’s Blues (Wade the Water)

Go get Dark Day to Drive from Doolittle’s bandcamp (for a donation) and if you’re looking for more alt-country stuff, try 2011’s It Takes All Night (free DL) or Hesslein’s other band Mail The Horse.