The music of Tara Nevins and her rootsy Americana tribe Donna the Buffalo sounds like a hot night at a folk festival, the beach blanket spread out and weighed down with sandwiches, the dusty camper parked nearby, friends line-dancing on the grass. That image is conjured up on the band's newest album, "Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday," a twangy fusion of Southern rock, bluegrass, reggae and country. The image is also reflected in the album single "I Love My Tribe," a cliché-free mash note to close friends and to the Herd, Donna the Buffalo's Deadhead-like following of devoted fans.
"[The song] is about the importance of friends and your inner circle, your outer circle, your tribe, the people who you can lean on and trust," says Nevins, whose quintet will perform Tuesday, Jan. 6, at Boca Raton's Funky Biscuit. "It also kind of points toward the Herd. I think the music brings people together. The music drives the Herd devotion at our shows."
And there are many shows, Nevins says, with Donna the Buffalo's relentless touring schedule of 150-plus dates a year. One of those includes headlining the Virginia Key Grassroots Festival (returning Feb. 19-22), which was founded four years ago by the band and Jordan Puryear, brother of DtB guitarist Jeb Puryear. The festival, which Nevins calls four days of "pure hippydom" with yoga, campers, arts and crafts and roots music is the "very new, very young baby" in a line of grassroots festivals the group has created in Silk Hope, N.C. and Trumansburg, N.Y.
"It's been interesting trying to get a grassroots fest off the ground in Miami. All the other festivals are rural, out in the country, and this one is right outside the city, so it's harder to lasso the same kind of people that camp out all weekend," says Nevins, speaking by phone from a Key West hotel. "It's something to belong to. It breeds community, and it gives locals another outlet."
DtB's show Tuesday night, as with Virginia Key next month, will likely showcase new songs from "Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday" and from the band's 25-year catalog of 10 albums. Nevins, who handles vocals, guitar, fiddle, accordion and scrubboard, says the band has performed without a setlist since the beginning, trading off vocal parts with Puryear so that each show unfolds in an "organic way."
She says she prefers songs that favor her fiddle-playing and her voice, such as "Don't Know What We've Got," an easygoing countryfied groove from the new album that puts Nevins' honey-sweet vocals on display.
"I like to sing a song that flatters my voice, but I would definitely say the fiddle is something I really focused on in my career," Nevin says. "I'm a fiddle player, what can I say?"
Donna the Buffalo will perform at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 6, at the Funky Biscuit, 303 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton, and again Feb. 19-22 at the Virginia Key Grassroots Festival. With opener Funkin' Grateful. $20-$30. Call 561-395-2929 or go to FunkyBiscuit.com.