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Sad Is All You Need

David Dondero
David Dondero

I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t from time to time like to feel sad — to occasionally pull melancholy over themselves like a warm blanket or, on a warm summer day, bathe in it like a cool, dark room. 

Acclaimed but heretofore pretty esoteric Mid-Western songwriter David Dondero specializes in this kind of feeling, particularly on his latest acoustic, indie-folk release Inside the Cat’s Eye, a collection of songs featuring Dondero’s dark twist on folk, country and hyper-quiet indie rock. 

Throughout the album Dondero’s voice is plain and very accessible in its vulnerability. Relaxed because it doesn’t need to compete with amplified instruments, but not always comfortable in its warble when in the spotlight; a blemish that only makes Dondero’s literate but unpretentious lyrics all the more arresting, particularly on stand-out album track “Capitol Buildings Bleed.” With a descending melody and sparkling yet maudlin guitar line, the track tells the story of seeking solace, family trauma, and disappointment, all while asking the question: “Why you gotta drive yourself crazy?”

The song’s tone, like much of the album, evokes that stretch of winter after the holidays, when comforting cold turns to a damp restlessness. Or summer after the Fourth of July, as the picnics and camping trips wrap up and there’s nothing left to do but wait for fall. Dondero’s not always sad, but even the album’s happier tracks have a wry humor to them. “Bacon, Eggs and Beer,” he sings on the eponymously named track over relatively spritely Texas-folk,  “I got everything I need out of life.” 

David Dondero plays with Noelle Tannen & The Filthy No Nos as well as Eugene-based singer songwriter Kaitlin Sevy 9 pm Monday, June 26, at Old Nick’s; $7, 21-plus.