The Donkeys, Dollie Barnes
Jan 29 @ 9:00pm
Advance tickets available at:
or at The Crepe Place
As we watched the Donkeys perform one of the first of their nearly 150 shows in support of 2014’s Ride The Black Wave, on the clattery rooftop stage of the aptly named SXSW venue Cheers Shot Bar, Craig Finn (he of literate-rock luminaries The Hold Steady) turned to me and said something on the order of “you can just feel that they’ve played with each other since high school…they’ve got that thing, and you just can’t get it otherwise.” That thing, an elusive, intuitive musical hive-mindedness informs every note the acclaimed San Diego quartet ever play, live or on record, but is especially present on Midnight Palms, the mini-album due for release February 12th on Easy Sound.
Tracked largely live-in-the-studio with veteran producer, longtime friend, and fellow traveler Thom Monahan (Vetiver, Fruit Bats, Devendra Banhart), Midnight Palms oozes with the sticky, syrupy energy of a band fresh off the road and “in rare form,” as the expression goes. Recorded as it was at the end of one of the bands blitzkrieg road runs (which might see the band playing as many as 28 shows in 29 days), the collection’s lived-in live feel should surprise few.
The core founding trio of Tim Denardo, Anthony Lukens, and Sam Sprague drive the proceedings. Drummer Sprague alternately (and effortlessly) sets a lock-step driving pace, as on album opener “Hurt Somebody,” a bouncy girl-group groove (“Day by Day”), or a lazy gallop, as on the languid “Star Bird,” which the drummer also sings. Meanwhile, bassist Denardo falls easily into any of those pockets, and takes his own lead vocal turn on “Down the Line,” a dusty roots-pop tune as laid back as the men playing it. Lukens, of course, provides the by-turns warm, slippery, punchy and liquid keyboard lines that are the album’s bedrock, while lending his direct, earnest vocals to three of the album’s five tunes.
The fourth Donkey on Midnight Palms is The Hold Steady’s Steve Selvidge, stepping in after the (amiable) departure of long-time guitarist Jesse Gulati. Selvidge hopped on stage with the Donkeys that night at Cheers Shot Bar and would end up joining the band for a fair number of those 150 RTBW shows. His pointed, tasteful leads are peppered throughout Midnight Palms, most notably on the searing “Hold On To You.”
In all, the Donkeys have crafted in the Midnight Palms mini-album a fine, half-sized document of their singular sound. At once accessible, adventurous, nostalgic, and progressive, it can only be the Donkeys.
- Stephen Brower, Easy Sound Recording Co.
"The Dollie Barnes sound is hard to describe not unlike her signature voice. Singer-songwriter John Evans said it best when he told me that her voice only works for her, and no one else could have her sound. Because I’ve been lucky enough to be around Barnes, I’ve gotten to see that she’s a savvy, intriguing, and multi-layered individual who just happens to be one of the most engaging artists I’ve seen in a good while."
- David Garrick of Free Press Houston
"Over the past year or so, Dollie Barnes — and front woman Haley Barnes in particular — has begun asserting itself as one of the most promising bands in town. Barnes, the woman (Dollie is a family nickname), was already well-known to Houston audiences from her work in Buxton and Ancient Cat Society; a detour to Baylor University gave her the time and space to develop as a songwriter skilled at mingling mystery and melancholy a la Stevie Nicks. Barnes, the local indie-pop band, also includes two members of Buxton and two guys from Robert Ellis’ band, plus Barnes’ fiance Tom Lynch, whom she and several bandmates join in aesthetically similar Houston outfit Vodi. (Must make putting together shows a lot easier.) Earlier this month, the band — Dollie Barnes, just to keep you on track — released the single “Taking All Day,” a wistful and hummable track that prefaces their forthcoming debut album Caught In a Phase."
- Chris Gray of Houston Press