By Matt Wickstrom
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Donnie Bowling celebrated the release of his latest album About Time on Sept. 29 before an intimate crowd at Tadoo Lounge inside the offices of Smiley Pete Publishing. With lantern lights hanging from above bestowing a magical ambiance upon the room, those in attendance cozied up to the stage with a mix of camping and office chairs, all the time their attention laser-focused on the evening’s performers, so much so that you could hear a pin drop in the room.
Taking the stage last, Bowling displayed a vocal prowess coated in raw emotion that pierces the soul so beautifully that he could bring a listener to tears reading the phonebook. While that wasn’t part of the set list at his album release the emotional wand he held over the audience was (I’m not crying, you’re crying), with Bowling casting a spell that had those in attendance hanging on every note with unwavering anticipation beginning with set-opener and title track from the album “About Time” backed by bassist Jonathan Grindstaff and drummer Tanner Moore.
Bowling later dove into the introspective “Out of Touch” and “The Road,” the later of which was the first single for the record and takes a look back on advice from an old friend about opting to go all-in in pursuit of music along with his own musical journey thus far including the sacrifices made, moments of triumph and more. On the album “The Road” is further transformed into an indie-folk medley with violin from Maggie Lander and mandolin and backing vocals from Wes Smith (Brother Smith).
Following was the upbeat “Stand,” which features a steady, foot-stomping beat backed by lyrics about standing tall and not giving up on what you want, leading into a chorus that echoes “Because everyone needs a hand / I know I act like I can stand on my own / But I need you.”
Bowling later invited up Brett Higgins of local pop and R&B duo Prototype for an acoustic, harmony driven rendition of “Shadows,” which featured Bowling and Higgins exchanging vocal daggers in what was a masterclass on hitting the high note.
After welcoming his band back to the stage Bowling jumped into “Alive and Alone” before firing up a cover of Death Cab for Cutie’s “No Sunlight” to close out his set before a jubilant crowd urged the artist to re-emerge for an encore, which he obliged with a solo cut of “Path,” an unrecorded tune that may pop onto one of Bowling’s future endeavors.
About Time is Bowling’s first work since dropping two EPs – Finding Ways to Get By and Western: The Reset – in 2018. The album was engineered and produced by J. Tom Hnatow at the Lexington Recording Company – formerly Shangri-la Productions – before being mixed by Duane Lundy and mastered by Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Mastering. The album features contributions from Hnatow along with his Horse Feathers bandmmate Robby Cosenza on drums, Smith on mandolin and backing vocals, Lander on violin, Higgins on guest vocals and Moore on drums.
Prior to Bowling taking the stage the artist received support from Menifee County’s soul-soaked southern rock stylist Ethan Wayne, the enchanting indie folk harmonies of Louisville-based Rebecca Rego and Nathan Musick of Cannon Eyes, the last of which threw down a captivating solo performance featuring stripped down, poppy hooks that presented a near 180 from the group’s elaborate full band sound, offering up an entirely new take on previously familiar tunes like “Building” – the band’s latest single – and “The Right Thing” in addition to “In My Head,” which Musick introduced as one of a handful of songs the band is prepping to go into the studio and record later this week.
About Time track list
- The Passing
- This Heart
- Not My Life
- About Time
- Alive and Alone
- Out of Touch
- All the Flaws
- Feet Off the Slate
- Shadow (feat. Brett Higgins)
- The Road