111 E. 14th Street, Suite 300
New York, NY 10003
A review written for The Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by David Schultz
When five of the best session musicians and former members of Portland, Maine's finest acts got together in 1991, the Boneheads soon became second only to lobster as the state's most popular export. Their live shows (often featuring a polka version of "Purple Haze") and AAA airplay have helped buoy their popularity. They were finalists in Boston's 1994 Acoustic Underground competition and have played on Public Radio International's syndicated show "Mountain Stage."
The Boneheads have been described as a mix between the country side of Van Morrison and the rock side of the Band. After repeated listens to "Donkey", I find them to be a mix between the country side of Uncle Tupelo and the rock side of jam bands like Dave Matthews and the Grateful Dead. The influence of Phish comes through on the funky crawl "Shake that Demon Out", whereas the country flavor of Son Volt is apparent on the back-to-back tracks "Feel Alive" and "If He Loved Her". In a bizarre mix, the final, and best, song on the album, the medium-paced rocker "How Long Will This Train Keep On Rolling", blends the crisp clean Dire-Straits-like guitar with deadpan singing that Lou Reed would be proud of. Another stand-out from "Donkey" is "The Man Who Isn't Here," a cry-in-your-beer drinking tribute to a deceased friend.
Four of the five members individually wrote the ten songs which appear on Donkey, which may explain the diversity of styles represented. All five Boneheads also contributed to the production. The Boneheads are accomplished musicians who judiciously employ accordion, dobro, clavinet, fiddle, and organ to form the rich, carefully-crafted sounds of "Donkey". The musicianship is superb, as can be heard, for example, in the interplay between guitar and piano solos during "Railroad Bill", and the Spanish guitar sound that pervades "Siesta Time".
"Donkey" was recorded in a spare room of a Bonehead household. The sound is clean and the relaxed atmosphere appears to have resulted in one of the best sounding country-rock albums to be released in 1995.
Edited by Kerry Dexter