Steam Donkeys' Story - 'A Word from the Band' - by Buck Quigley (Buffalo, NY CD liner notes)
|Ladies and Gents, the Steam Donkeys...
Theyre a country band.
Theyre a rock band.
Theyre swingers (musically, that is).
Theyre The Steam Donkeys, and theres nobody quite like them.
For more than a decade, the boys have brought their blend of musical virtuosity and eclecticism to bar stages, street festivals and massive amphitheaters throughout Buffalo, Western New York and all the way down the Eastern Seaboard. Their live performances have caused thousands of music lovers to exclaim, "Hey, these guys are good," and bar owners to proclaim, "You boys drank a lot of beer."
At the time, country music meant line-dancing, with Billy Ray Cyrus about to spring Achy Breaky Heart on the world. The seminal Uncle Tupelo album No Depression had been out for less than a year, and the genre to which that CD would lend its name was little more than an abstract notion in the musical minds of guys like Buck, Charlie, John and Kyle. In 1991, alternative country wasnt even a phenomenon off in the distance -- it didnt exist.
Weaving Bucks smooth vocals and rhythm guitar with Charlies Dick Dale-meets-Don Rich surf/twang leads over the pinpoint precision of John and Kyles rhythm section, The Steam Donkeys quickly built a following on the Buffalo music scene.
Bringing real country music to venues that normally hosted sound-alike cover bands and hair metal, their reputation started to grow beyond the borders of the Queen City.
Doug Moody joined up in 1992, his violin virtuosity and vocal range adding a lush texture to The Steam Donkeys melodic grit. That year, they released a five-song EP, Songs From a Stolen Guitar, recorded by Robbie Takac of The Goo Goo Dolls, another band grinding away in hopes of hitting it big.
The Steam Donkeys toured the Southeast in 1993, and a year later, their first full-length release, Cosmic Americanarama, had them on the road for much of the next three years. The bands musical evolution, along with the toll extracted by constant touring, led to some lineup changes, with bassist Frank Quebral coming on board in 1994.
The bands journeys through the south helped land the only spot afforded a Yankee band on Bubbapalooza, Vol. 1, an anthology of non-Nashville country and roots music. John left the band, temporarily, in 1997, and Frank did the same a year later, with Joe Kross and John Weber taking their places. The band also put together a little outdoor show with a few of their friends at the old Pierce Arrow that year, an all-day party they called Americanarama.
In 1998, pedal-steel guitar wizard Jim Whitford also joined up, adding to the musical tapestry, and the bands second full CD, Little Honky Tonks, won rave reviews.
John Brady returned to his seat behind the drum kit in 2000, with Frank again picking up the bass a year later.
By 2000, Americanarama had outgrown its original home, and the festival that annually draws bands and fans from around the Northeast moved downtown to East Mohawk Street, home of the Mohawk Place, one of the citys most diverse musical forums. This years show will mark the fifth downtown Americanarama, and the eighth overall.
While the boys havent been touring regularly, particularly since Sophie was born to Buck and his wife, Heather, in 2000 and Doug moved to the Albany area in 2002. But playing mainly as a foursome, Buck, Charlie, John and Frank have been playing weekly gigs, most recently at Merlins on Elmwood on Friday evenings. Doug returns to add a violin for Americanarama and selected other gigs, and former band members remain more like extended family than "ex-Donkeys."
Last year, they completed work on their third CD -- Buffalo, NY. That effort, which began in 2000, includes the talents of most of that extended family. It was released on a limited basis in time for Americanarama 7 last summer, with its official release in spring of 2004. Also this year, pedal steel player John Deickman became a full,card-carrying member of the band.
A new CD is in the works, and Americarama 8 is being planned for its annual weekend in June, so the history of The Steam Donkeys keeps evolving along with their music.
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