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Live From the American Ballroom

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Donna the Buffalo--hard to categorize, but easy to love--are meant to be heard live. The six-member group thrives on jams and grooves, blending, bending, and veering from Appalachian country to Cajun, reggae, zydeco, folk, and roots rock often in the same song (check out the nearly 13-minute "Conscious Evolution"). Frequently compared to the Grateful Dead, DTB evoke Jerry Garcia and pals, both musically and with their rabid, nomadic fan base (the Herd). But in mixing tribal celebration with spiritual, social, and political issues, the band, which travels the country in a 1960 tour bus, recalls so many other hippie-era ensembles that this two-CD 2001 concert recording might as well have been cut at the Fillmore in '68. Jeb Puryear's electric guitar hearkens, at times, to the plaintive scorching of Big Brother & the Holding Company, and yet the group also knows the importance of melody, as on "Family Picture," where Tara Nevins anchors the lyrics and rides them over a driving beat and a riff so infectious you'll be reaching for the repeat button. Two discs might be stretching things a bit, but put on a tie-dyed T-shirt and light up a smoke, and you'll be clamoring for space on that bus. --Alanna Nash

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