• Review

REVIEW + PHOTOS: Daniel Donato at Ludlow Garage

Photo Cred: Rob O'Brien

If you were looking up the term or genre “Cosmic Country,” you would find a few main touchpoints. Artists, like Gram Parson, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and even the Byrds Nashville era would be a good place to start.

As artists moved out west during the ‘60s they began to latch on to many of the traits that made Country music so great. The voyeuristic heartbreaking storytelling, created by the Nashville and Bakersfield sounds.

Once these artists began experimenting with pyschedilics and following the beatnik lifestyle of writers like Jack Kerouac. Artists like the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers began to mix the influences of country and bluegrass, with the escapist storytelling, and experimental jazz influences of the beatnik generation. Add a dash of rock and you truly have what makes Cosmic Country guitarist Daniel Donato.


Donato graced the historic Ludlow Garage, Thursday evening with a growing following here in Cincinnati. The crowd was mix of country rock fans and your typical wook crowd, similar to a Billy Strings crowd. Strings being one of Donato’s other contemporaries that has seen a similar rise in fame. Although completely different from what Donato and his band are doing there are many similarities to draw from Strings trajectory. After Thursday evening it isn't hard to invision Donato selling out three nights at The Andrew J Brady Music Center in the near future.

As the band came out on stage, there was this big stage ready look to the quartet. The drummer dawning a similar look to that of Bill Kreutzmann during the Dead’s own country rock era in the early ‘70s. The keyboardist looked like he could’ve been pulled from your favorite Yacht Rock group, and the bass player looking like he had just gotten off of his motorcycle from smoking a doobie with David Crosby or Dennis Hopper’s character in “Easy Rider.” For me this was important to the vibes that we were about to immerse ourselves in. Finally, Donato came out on stage ready to rip through his catalogue of country rock originals and impressive virtuoso jams.


Having only listened to Donato’s studio work and some live shows on nuggs.net, I wasn’t sure what Donato was going for. Was he following the trend of artists cosplaying as what a classic rock artists should look and sound like? Was he covering artists like the Dead because he was doing this sort of cover band with a few originals shtick?

No. Daniel Donato is a full-fledged powerhouse of a live act, with the chops to back it up. Each member of the band filled their roles perfectly. Moving in and out through different genres, like outlaw country, psychedelic, funk, even moments of Yacht Rock. Their harmonies, precision on their instruments, and tasteful melodies eased fans in, just for Donato’s roaring country guitar twang to come through on his teal telecaster.


Donato and company ran through tunes like “Valhala” teasing covers like, “Fire on the Mountain” during the jams. The highlight for me came when the band broke into “Dance in the Desert.” A song clearly nodding to the Dead’s disco era and their live staple “Dancin’ in the Street.”

After the encore covering “Cumberland Blues,” Donato and the band took a photo with the crowd and left them with a notion that every music fan should leave a show with. The notion that this was a special night and this will never happen again. Not to say that there won’t be even better nights to come. However, the beauty of live music is that each experience is unique and has special connection with artist and audience. Thursday night may never come again but you can bet Donato and his Cosmic Country sound will be back for many years to come.


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