If you haven’t heard about The Donkeys before and you’re a fan of Lost, you might recognise them by the name of Geronimo Jackson playing a song called ‘Dharma Lady’ on the show’s final season. Polar bears and Jacob aside, the band from San Diego’s second album for Dead Ocean, Born With Stripes, is a mixture of old and new, with perfect balance between the two, and without sounding clichéd or pretentious.
The opening track ‘Don’t Know Who We Are’ is a calm, soothing song with just enough vibrant energy, that sets the tone for what you can expect from the album; and you won’t be disappointed. As the album progresses, their influences begin to poke through. ‘Bloodhound’ sees the band go back to more rootsy blues and folk rock, with hints of Taj Mahal and Tom Waits. The title track, ‘Born With Stripes’ comes and goes very quickly. At only 1 minute 40 seconds, it’s a nice shot of energy that, at times, reminds you of the Rolling Stones in their Exile On Main St. days, and still leaves you wanting more. It’s clear at this point that we’re on a journey through this album, much like the twists and turns of a rollercoaster (or infact an episode of Lost). With the energy of ‘Born With Stripes’ giving way to the more vintage and psychedelic sound of the aptly named ‘Kaleidoscope’, and one of two instrumentals, ‘West Coast Raga’.
As each songs passes, the incredible, rich balance between old and new continues without fail. The band manages to sound authentic and prove that above all, they’re very good at what they do. ‘Oxblood’, for example, sounds like a hidden George Harrison classic, but at no point does it sound like a copy. As with the rest of the songs on this album, The Donkeys have stamped their mark and it belongs to them.
All the songs on ‘Born With Stripes’ complement each other perfectly and the album flows with no difficulties. Some tracks are light, some heavier, with most of them bridging the gap between experimentation and convention, but it all fits nicely. The album ends on a high note with the rolling, epic ballad ‘Valerie’, fluctuating between The Bees and Bob Dylan, and ‘East Coast Raga’, the second instrumental with a little more energy than it’s previous west coast brother – almost like a reprisal or response.
The Donkey’s are authentic but still cut through, and they do what they do with ease, never sounding like they’re trying too hard. Born With Stripes is definitely an album to have on your iPod this summer.
Released on 25th April 2011 by Dead Oceans