Troubadour David Dondero releases seventh full-length album, “Number Zero with a Bullet”
There are hard working singer/songwriters, and there are singer/songwriters who play their fingers to the bone. The latter are the artists who travel more miles than any human being should have to endure, who do so much on their own dime that their pockets are perpetually empty, and who keep on going for the music, always for the music, state to state, city to city, town to town, confronted day and night by an ever-changing blur of strange faces and unfamiliar streets. It’s a life that American troubadour David Dondero knows too well, and that he has known for the better part of twelve years as a solo artist. And now, after six solid releases, a live album, endless touring, and changing labels from Ghostmeat to Future Farmer to Team Love Records, David has just released his seventh album, “Number Zero with a Bullet.”
Having only just been released on August 3rd by Team Love Records, “Number Zero with a Bullet” has proved a fine follow-up to David’s “Simple Love” album from 2007. With songs like “Jesus from 12 to 6,” “Carolina Moon,” “Caught the Song”, and “Wherever You Go,” “Number Zero with a Bullet” is bound to please even his most dedicated and long time fans. Much like the rest of David’s solo releases, “Number Zero with a Bullet” is a musical travelogue of sorts, a haphazard collection of inked words and partially crumpled blue-lined notebook pages from a road journal being sung over a background of well written music, some of it folky, and some of it with a slight rock edge, but all of it with David’s signature sound and absorbing narratives.
It is arguably so that David Dondero is as important a troubadour to his generation as the singer/songwriters of old no doubt were to theirs. In fact, 2006 saw David Dondero named “one of the best living songwriters” on NPR’s All Songs Considered program, alongside artists such as Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Tom Waits. A bit of notable recognition, to be sure.
David’s songs, though heavily personalized, don’t just hold relevance to his own existence, his own humanity; they are relevant to existence in general, to humanity in general. Every young man or woman who has ever wandered America, been in love, become ensared in the temporary pleasures and seemingly never-ending agonies of addiction, experienced triumphs and failures, given in to the madness, rejoiced and lamented their own existences simultaneously, and become so lost and damaged they thought they’d never make it back. But make it back we have, most of us anyway, and that’s sort of what “Number Zero with a Bullet” is about — after all the miles, the friends and lovers, the crazy memories, the roadside imagery, the blur of nameless faces, the joy and hurt, the experiences and observations that prove too many for simple reflection to bear, the road goes on, stretching out in the late twilight sun to that place at the horizon where it seems to just fall off into infinity. And just when when you think you’ve become numb to it all, you set out on another adventure, again feeling that heart-swelling wonder at the great American crossing, just like the first time you hit the road for parts unknown. David knows this, too. Actually, he probably knows it better than most of us, as he has made a lifestyle and art form of it.
Ever since going solo and releasing his 1999 album “Pity Party,” David has shown a remarkable ability to capture the heart of America in his songs, which he does with his rambling, poetic narratives, like a modern day Jack Kerouac, and in turn captures the heart of humankind. He’s a romantic, really. And to come to that conclusion again and again, all I need to do is play a handful of his songs, very specific songs, mind you, spread throughout his album catalog. If I were to go in order from the oldest release to the newest, I would have to begin with “Train Hop Flop,” a song about traveling as the old boxcar vagabonds did in their day, sneaking into the railyard and then jumping a train to its next destination. “I Had To Get Back East” from 2000’s “Spider West Myshkin and a City Bus,” which deals with hitching a ride with an interesting motorist at a convenience store, and all that transpires from that one encounter. After that I would have to go with “Ashes on the Highway” from 2003’s “The Transient,” which in its most basic description is a song about the relationship David has developed with the road over the years. In 2005 David released what is hands down my favorite album of his, “South of the South,” the title song of which is indeed one to rival any great folk song ever written. And let’s make no mistake about this, David Dondero is a folk artist in every way that truly matters.
Over the years, David Dondero has shared the stage with the likes of Against Me!, Bright Eyes, Tilly & the Wall, Spoon, David Bazan, and The Mountain Goats, among others. He is on tour right now as I type this, moving through the last bit of his US tour in support of “Number Zero with a Bullet,” at the end of which he will be taking his songs to the people of Europe yet again.
Back in 2008, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Dondero for The Philadelphia Examiner. If you would like to know more about him, you can read it by clicking here.
Regarding “Number Zero with a Bullet” and his life between the last two albums, David wrote the following words, which appeared on the press copy of he album insert.
Have you ever gone from Berlin to Tasmania? From the Klutina River in Alaska down to San Francisco via Honolulu, Austin, and Frogmore, South Carolina? All in one album? Not knowing where to next? Well, that’s where I’ve been and where I’m trying to get. The great not knowing… like a wind that’s blowing, rolling… “Wherever you go, then there you are.” The holy unforgiving blacktop sanctuary has become a wife and family to me. This is the seventh installment in a series of words put to soundscape which paints the picture of my life. Jobs, love affairs, battles with bottle and so on. # Zero with a Bullet. The title – yeah, I know where I stand in the game. Doesn’t mean I’m not gonna keep playing. I didn’t think I had another song in me, but here we go again. They just crept up and wouldn’t leave me alone; wouldn’t let me sleep! I don’t even know where the hell they came from or remember how they got here. These goddamned songs!
And that pretty much says it all.