- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

For members of a band with such a calculated image and sound, the White Stripes ' Jack and Meg White play surprisingly innocent music. Judge for yourself which they are on Monday (April Fool's Day) at the 9:30 Club.
These Detroiters, who hit it big in England last summer, have already been hailed by the British press as underground-rock saviors. Yet this is as American a band as one could create: They dress in red and white, and play the blues.
Their arty kitsch is mixed with a white-trash aesthetic, and in a Jerry Springer twist, the alleged brother-sister duo is rumored to really be ex-husband and ex-wife.
Hype aside, the Stripes' latest album, "White Blood Cells" (on the Sympathy for the Record Industry label), successfully takes English blues-rock power chords and gives them a childish voice (in the good sense).
"Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" sets the tone, with Miss White's crashing cymbals (which sound as though someone had picked up the sticks for the first time and started flailing away) and Mr. White's crunchy Black Sabbath-inspired riffs. The Stripes keep the songs short, so there's more time for fun and less time to worry about riff sources (such Blue Oyster Cult for "I Can't Wait.")
Mr. White comes off as an obsessed man-child in "Dead Leaves" as he leaves "30 notes in the mailbox" for his girl and also in the J.D. Salinger-styled "I'm Finding It Hard To Be A Gentleman."
Amidst operatic piano and Robert Plant-style vocals, the "gentleman" admits that he wants to be a man but wants also to help "every single girl" climb up a tree. In "I Can Learn" he admits, "I wish we were stuck up a tree" since "I don't know how to make you mine."
The regression hits a glorious peak on the singsong "We're Going To Be Friends," a Beatlesesque ode to a schoolgirl who's cool because she's not afraid to dig up bugs.
Mr. White's nasal whine recalls the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, though he does a gorgeous Paul McCartney on the touchingly desperate "The Same Boy You've Always Known."
The highlight "Hotel Yorba" features a stomping 4/4 acoustic beat and clever lyrics such as "If I'm the man that you love the most/You could say, 'I do' at least." As a bonus, the chorus flows like Johnny Cash's "One Piece At A Time," another cool song about a disgruntled Detroiter.

Donna the Buffalo brings its folksy jam-band sound and loyal, concert-taping fan base (the Herd) to the State Theatre tomorrow.
"It's all pretty much dance music," says fiddler, co-vocalist and scrubboardist Tara Nevins by phone from the sextet's New York home. However, she says, "We're not quite in that [jam band] category."
While there's enough jamming (and hippie ethos) to keep Phish and Dead fans happy, for 12 years DTB has mixed folk, zydceco, country, and reggae. Their yearly Finger Lakes Grass Roots Festival in Trumansburg, N.Y., draws bluegrass bands like Nickel Creek but also music from Africa.
"Live From The American Ballroom" (on the band's own Wildlife Music label) is a double CD culled from their spring 2001 East Coast tour. Several songs run longer than 10 minutes, and it's easy to tell where the band leaves room to improvise.
"Every night it takes us a different place," Miss Nevins says of the band's improvisations. "In a live show, any audience affects the show because it's a mutual exchange of energy."
The songs (all written by Miss Nevins and guitarist-vocalist Jeb Puryear) mostly focus on drifting through life and finding meaning in nature. Miss Nevins' cute yet funky drawl serves well in the reggae-styled "Tide of Time," though her voice is best when merged with Mr. Puryear's Country Joe stylings on songs like "Standing Room Only."
Mr. Puryear has angry, effective protest lyrics in "America" and the opus "Push Comes To Shove," though the latter almost veers into self-parody. A highlight, "America" is highly danceable with Mr. Puryear imitating Jimmy Buffett, and giving drummer Tom Gilbert and keyboardist Richie Stearns ample room to show off.
As for Miss Nevins' fiddle, it's perhaps best in a soulful solo on the mellow jazz of "Seems To Want To Hurt This Time." It's certainly worth taping, at least.


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