By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
After two self-released albums, Dondero caught a break while playing a subway station show where Future Farmer Records president Dennis Mitchell heard him and signed him on to release 2001's Shooting at the Sun With a Water Gun.
With some distribution and publicity finally in place, the album earned him his first widespread critical accolades. Highlights include the autobiographical "Analysis of a 1970's Divorce," which dissects conventional thinking prior to the sexual revolution ("They thought marriage was the proper thing to do/And in reality they probably just wanted to screw"), and "If You Break My Heart," keyed to the chorus, "If you break my heart/You pay for it."
More full-bodied than Shooting at the Sun, The Transient enriches Dondero's rumbling guitar style with lingering violin, sonorous organ lines and snappy snare drums that augment his hard-won insights. From "Ashes on the Highway," which suggests the death-wish disposition of his remains, to the album-closing "Song for the Civil Engineer," the album maps the search for meaning and identity across the seamless byways whose breadth and persistence mock our own mortality. Its set piece is the country-folk waltz "Dance of Spring," which recalls a lost lover, musing, "I remember the sweet sound/Now I hear nothing."
"It's about replacing a dead lover with booze and drugs or just chasing after something you're never going to get again trying to fill that hole," he says. "That kind of set the tone for my life, trying to live that lifestyle, the life of being on the road all the time. I want to be like Jack Kerouac. I've read every one of his books, and he's influenced my life directly. I want to live that lifestyle of being on the road all the time for the rest of my life."
Spinning off into more traffic, Dondero admits he may not find what he's looking for or even recognize it if he found it, but he does echo Kerouac in one respect -- he sees the road as its own purpose, extending in every direction and leading as far as the eye can see.