I’ve been spending a lot of time west of the west lately, just across the state line in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The BlueMoon Saloone has been bringing in some outstanding national acts recently and you know me, I’m a bloodhound for unusual intimate shows with such people. The David Dondero accompanied with locals John R Miller and Woodworkings show was no exception in this string of greatness at the BlueMoon, but before I jump into folk rock evil genius David Dondero and add to the long list of folks who dote on his music I definitely want to give a shout out to our local artist.
John R. Miller is a Shepherdstown artist I appreciate more and more each time I see him. If you have been following me for a little while and keeping up with the YouTube channel then maybe you’ve seen Miller before. I first taped him out of sheer coincidence back in April during Big Bullet Fest ( video link ) and was really excited by his iconic sounding country voice. He sings solo sometimes but mostly he sings lead in an alt country flavored rock band called Prison Book Club and I’ve had the privilege of taping and attending some of their shows too. I like Prison Book Club (PBC) and John Miller because they are country of the unpretentious sort with out fancy, artsy, or gypsy indie rock cover-ups, which is actually kind of rare around here. It’s like a breath of fresh air that says “hey it’s ok to just be country if you want to be” and PBC whispering in the background “as long as we can rock too”. Woodworkings closed the night and started their tour all in the same. That was the first time I heard the experimental/ minimalist/ rock quintet and it’s always hard to describe and rate such bands. I enjoyed the performance, but maybe the best I can say for Woodworkings that night is that after Dondero sparked our imaginations, they kept everyone’s minds in motion and deep in thought at the end of the night with a wordless story written by guitars and feedback.
So, about David… Yep, David is a great songwriter. Yep, David has a uniquely addictive vocal style, and yep his songs are perfect arrangements of guitar and emotion. I’m not the first to point this out, but I do want to put all this in my own words in a tangible sense if for no other reason than to honor this artist for going out of his way to visit us in Shepherdstown. Driving around with David’s music on the speakers makes you feel a little smarter, a little more real than everything else around you and it’s a feeling that makes you smile even despite the often melancholy lyrics. His CD’s should come with a warning label, “Warning: Day Dreaming May Occur”. It’s not just that David tells great stories, but the stories conjure more stories in your own head. Oh, the mystery that comes with an underappreciated traveling musician who speaks mostly only when spoken to, works occasional summer jobs in Alaska, and does his own car maintenance. I asked him about that guitar fret tattoo on his arm, it’s iconic and makes sense like Mail Pouch Tobacco advertisements on old rural barn sides. He said there was no real story behind it, just a result of a drunken night and maybe that’s true (sometimes things are just what they are), but it’s hard to believe coming from a man who seems to have a story for everything. Maybe he didn’t want to tell me and that’s fine, David’s music and David himself are always more about you than him. You see reflections of yourself and your dreams in his songs and that’s why he’s so amazing.
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