Simple Love is David Dondero’s follow-up to his 2005 release South of the South on Team Love Records. The title alludes to the unobtainable aspect of seeking and finding simple love. Love is anything but simple, and that dichotomy sets up the disappointment and heartache for those who seek it.
The live quality of this collection of songs lends to the authenticity of the storytelling. The awesome folksy cover art suits the style of this low fi folk/country/blues and sometimes rocking recording. The sessions were recorded on tape with minimal overdubs featuring David Dondero on guitar and vocals, Craig D. on drums, and an assortment of talented musicians exchanging instrument rotation on all ten tracks. One particular standout is jazz pianist Eddy Hovizal. His chops add distinction next to the natural quality of the other instruments.
Dondero is a masterful songwriter and bona fide storyteller. NPR’s Robin Hilton called him one of America’s best living songwriters, an assessment with which I agree. Dondero’s songs compel me to cry, smile, laugh, and snicker, concurrently. I often feel like he’s one of my family members as I affectionately appreciate the self-deprecating and sarcastic nuance of his humor and tender sweet nature of his being. I find myself chuckling while listening to the final track “Double Murder Ballad Suicide.” The guitar, conga and jazz piano play and interact with Dondero’s eight minute crazy sing/talk story involving a group of friends, a detective, and tourists on the Golden Gate Bridge. Ending with a quick trickster suicide jump off the bridge. Why am I laughing?
Throughout the recording are lonesome bluegrass sounds, twangy guitar leads, drifting pedal steel guitar, and bluesy piano rifts. The sounds replicate the rinky-dink jukebox acoustics in saloons, from the underbelly of small towns and forgotten cities. There in the bar dives among the drifters he’s been ditched, dumped, kicked around, and hurt. He pens his misery as he travels from Alaska to San Francisco and to Oakland. His broken heart receives solace recalling the inspirational Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas and gains strength when he yearns for the Mighty Mississippi. He is a forlorn martyr that longs to find the idyllic and unrealistic “simple love.” He seeks eternal love while living life as a hot plains drifter, and road rambler. The lonely path is the one he follows.