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Left Lane: Tara Nevins

Donna the Buffalo lead vocalist goes solo

September 22, 2011
Times Leader

Those familiar with New York state-based Donna the Buffalo will instantly recognize Tara Nevins as a founding member of the band, formed some 22 years ago.

Of the off-the-beaten-path variety, DTB maintains a loyal fan base known to travel at great lengths to check out their wildly popular live shows. The band has scheduled play dates in both Columbus and Pittsburgh in early November.

Nevins, meanwhile, released her second solo project this spring. It is an outstanding piece of work, which, likely has yet to be discovered by mainstream America.

"Wood & Stone," on Nashville's Sugar Hill label, is one gem of a CD, featuring 10 Nevins' originals in addition to three accompanying covers.

Nevins was just a fifth grader when she opted to learn the violin. "My father said it was a great choice because (it's) so versatile," Nevins described. "You can play all different styles of music on a violin."

As a young teen, Nevins was caught up in the late 60s era of the Beatles, Byrds and Bob Dylan. "I've always listened to pop music. It's had a huge influence on my career."

At 14, Nevins got her first guitar and made it a point to become a skillful player. "At that time, friends would come over to the house and my father would have me entertain. I'd either play the violin or my guitar and sing songs popular at the time. I really enjoyed playing James Taylor and Carole King songs."

In college, Nevins was to become an adept fiddle player, finding friends who shared similar interests. "I started traveling to festivals all over the south playing this old time fiddle music," Nevins explains. "I did that for years and years and became part of a very large community."

An ensuing trip to the Big Easy at Mardi Gras introduced Nevins to the Zydeco style. "While I was down there, I bought an accordion," she related.

Before Donna the Buffalo, Nevins co-founded The Heartbeats, an all-female band playing a variety of old school styles.

Though her work with DTB has drawn much praise throughout the Americana landscape, Nevins has more than proven her worth as a superb solo artist as "Wood & Stone" immediately attests.

Recruiting noted producer Larry Campbell to Levon Helm's Woodstock (N.Y.) studio was the first step in a joyous process. '" Team Levon' was fabulous," Nevins noted. "Everyone made me feel very welcome and Levon played drums himself on two of the songs."

Campbell contributes electric guitar, pedal steel, mandolin, banjo and harmonium while Nevins adds accordion and tambourine. The record also includes guest appearances from Allison Moorer and Jim Lauderdale (harmony vocals).

Nevins says the title (an opening) track pays homage to her upbringing and early influences. "All I Ever Needed" is the breezy second track which has found airplay on satellite radio.

Relationships - some strong and some broken - are covered on "You've Got It All" and "What Money Cannot Buy." Nevins teams with Lauderdale on "Snowbird" with Nevin describing a metaphorical ballad regarding the lost art of romance.

Out of nowhere comes track 12, "Tennessee River," a strong LL candidate for Song of the Year with its stark arrangement and brooding atmosphere.

Nevins closes the disc with Van Morrison's "Beauty of Days Gone By." "I wanted to end the record with it because I love the sentiment of the song," Nevins advised. "It's kind of like 'the sun always comes back out' kind of thing. We grow and learn and take our relationships with us for better and for worse and that's life in all its beauty and glory."

Nevins' 'Wood & Stone' will find its way to a number of critics' best-of list for 2011, the Lane naturally included.

Learn more about Nevins at her website: and at


NEVINS and Donna The Buffalo play Columbus' Woodlands Tavern in Grandview Heights on Thursday, Nov. 3. followed by a Saturday, Nov. 5 date at Pittsburgh's Rex Theater......

LAST week's Sternwheel Festival concert featuring Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives attracted a nice turnout on a late October-like evening. Stuart and his band took the Heritage Port stage at 9:30 greeted by 50-degree temps. Still, the band played a varied 85-minute set featuring some of Stuart's early 80's work (Hillbilly Rock, Tempted) as well as songs from 2010's 'Ghost Train.'

Superlatives' lead guitarist Kenny Vaughn performed two songs from his new CD, released just last week.....

Gibson may be reached at



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