american buffalo

donna the buffalo: kathy zeigler, jeb puryear, tara nevins, bill renyolds, tom gilbert. photo by jordy risk.

donna the buffalo: kathy zeigler, jeb puryear, tara nevins, bill renyolds, tom gilbert. photo by jordy risk.

When it comes to defining the music of Donna the Buffalo, Jeb Puryear doesn’t mind counting the years.

The guitarist and vocalist for the rhythmically charged, roots driven troupe from upstate New York is eager to honor his band’s recent 20th anniversary and the aptly-titled Silverlined album that went along with it. But discussing the origins and musical make-up of Donna the Buffalo means spinning back the years a bit further to the old time folk and fiddle traditions the band grew out of and still owes considerable allegiance to today.

“Musicians have this good, protective mechanism,” Puryear said, who performs with Donna the Buffalo at the Kentucky Theatre on Thursday. “It helps them not look too far into the future. But in a way, I’m not surprised at all the band has lasted 20 years because we come from a tradition of old time fiddle and folk roots music. Those types of musicians don’t just play for a few years and then stop. It’s a lifestyle. It’s just who we are.”

Pinning a specific musical style on Donna the Buffalo is a bit of a trick. Band founders Tara Nevins and Puryear are versed in the ways of old time fiddle music, although Puryear also set his sights on guitar during his Ithaca upbringing. The resulting camaraderie between the two players yielded a band with accents of country, zydeco, reggae, folk, pop, and more.

Jam bands favor the ways Donna the Buffalo’s churchy, cheery melodies give rise to hearty grooves. Americana audiences champion the traditional inspirations that fuel the storylines, as well as the rhythms, of the band’s songs. Take the Puryear tune The Call. A highlight from Silverlined, it is steeped in the kinds of death, faith and regret that were cornerstones of Appalachian and pre-bluegrass country music.

“I would say almost all folk music and mountain music influence everything we do. And, yeah, having subject matter that deals with somebody dying is far more typical of old folk ballads than modern rock songs.

“It’s interesting, really. People ask us all about our influences. I mean, I don’t think there is anybody we’ve ever met that hasn’t influenced us.”

Given the artists the band has collaborated with of late, the level of inspiration that goes into a Donna the Buffalo album must be rich indeed. Nevins’ singing and fiddle work gets a lift from West African kora pioneer Mamadou Diabate on Blue Sky (from 2005’s Life’s a Ride album) and banjo colossus Bela Fleck on Locket and Key (from Silverlined) while four of Puryear’s tunes from the new album feature vocal aid from Ollabelle’s Amy Helm.

But it is the sound Donna the Buffalo produces regardless of the guest list that defines the band. While that music might be drenched in tropical sunshine, lathered in bayou swamp water or served with a slice of old timey charm, it is never mapped out too far in advance.

“It’s a totally an organic process,” Puryear said of the way Donna the Buffalo outlines a stylistic course. “What we do, really, is totally in the vein of an old time session. The thing about old time music is you can play with so many people so easily. If there is a guitar player or banjo player, you just find them and go. A session can very easily just take off.”

Old time music, it turns out, was in generous supply while Puryear was growing up in Ithaca. Fiddle tunes and players were so plentiful, in fact, that he thought the rest of the waking world was equally hip to the tradition.

“Back in the early ‘70s, when I was a kid, there was this really tremendous energy that came with old time music. I thought that was going on all over the world. Then I got with an old time band, took a little road trip and realized that wasn’t the case. In fact, in the certain style we were playing in, it wasn’t happening anywhere else.”

It took connecting with Nevins in the mid ‘80s, a time when both artists where playing Appalachian-based music in upstate New York clubs and coffeehouses, for more electrified, rockish and stylistically diverse music to emerge.

“Ever since I met Tara long ago, we just had a real affinity for understanding what each other was doing and have been able to build on that.”

And the name? That was actually proposed by a patron at an Ithaca coffeehouse, although the suggestion was actually to call the then-new troupe Dawn of the Buffalo. The misshapen phonetics became the moniker for a band that continues to roam over 20 years later.

“The good thing about music is that you learn so much about it every time you play,” Puryear said. “Sometimes when you’ve been doing something for 18, 19 years together, you figure something out about a song or the way you can play it.

“But then, there is also a little bit of you that wants to reject that because you feel so stupid that it took you so long to figure whatever that was out.”

Donna the Buffalo performs at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main. Tickets are $23. Call: (859) 231-7924.



Daily News Record August 23, 2000 | DODD, ANNMARIE NEW YORK — Hit by a $10.6 million charge tied to its decision to license out its Arrow shirt business, as well as markdowns at its sock group, Cluett America Group announced its second-quarter losses had widened to $11.5 million from $4.5 million.

As reported, Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. last month acquired the license for the Arrow brand for men’s and boys’ dress shirts and sportswear in the United States. P-VH also acquired from Cluett the license for Kenneth Cole dress shirts.

Cluett said income from continuing operations, which primarily consist of Gold Toe socks, slid 27.8 percent to $5.2 million, from $7.2 million. Sales dipped 3.2 percent to $38.9 million, from $40.2 million, which Cluett attributed to the timing of shipments. The hosiery group’s gross margins eroded to 32.7 percent from 35.4 percent as a result of reduced volume and greater promotional sales. The latest period also includes $600,000 in expenses tied to a packaging change for Gold Toe.

Gold Toe accounts for about 60 percent of the sock group’s sales, with the remainder consisting of private labels and licensed brands such as Perry Ellis, Nautica and Jockey. The bottom line includes losses of $10.6 million tied to the disposal of the shirt operations, including $4.5 million impairment charge representing the difference between the carrying value of goodwill versus the amount received from P-VH. P-VH paid $48.9 million in cash and assumed $2.1 million of debt, according to Cluett’s 10-Q. The charge also includes estimated operating losses of $2.3 million during the phase-out period. For the 1999 quarter, operating losses from discontinued operations were $4.7 million. gold toe socks

In the half, losses steepened to $18.3 million from $11.6 million due to write-offs in the men’s shirt business, higher interest expenses and higher promotional costs in the sock group. Income from continuing operations fell 12.7 percent to $11 million, from $12.6 million. Sales from continuing operations advanced 4.2 percent to $79.4 million, from $76.2 million.

The 10-Q notes that the trademark license agreement requires P-VH pay a $5 million minimum guaranteed annual royalty fee to Cluett, subject to increases based on the achievement by P-VH of certain sales targets. The initial term of the license expires on June 2007, but P-VH has the option to renew the agreement for two additional five-year terms, provided it meets certain conditions.

Grand National to Take PEI Into Canada MIAMI — Perry Ellis International executives said Tuesday they have signed an agreement with Grand National Apparel to design, source, advertise and market men’s sportswear in Canada under the Perry Ellis, Perry Ellis America, John Henry, Natural Issue and Manhattan labels. go to web site gold toe socks

Grand National Apparel, based in Toronto, currently markets Haggar men’s wear and, under a previous licensing arrangement, plans to launch Perry Ellis sportswear in Canada for fall 2000. According to Jeff Otis, the company’s president and CEO, that license will now be folded into the joint venture signed with PEI.

Product will be available for spring 2001; a full launch for PEI’s labels is scheduled for fall 2001.

“This opens a huge opportunity for us,” said Otis. “We have a stable of labels to offer the few major retailers we have up here. We’re a little late for spring, but we’ll work on it as best we can.

“With our expertise in the Canadian market, and Perry Ellis’s strong sourcing, marketing and merchandising capabilities,” he said, “it assures our role as the market leader in men’s sportswear in Canada.” DODD, ANNMARIE

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