Sun, March 28, 2021
Combining his favorite aspects of the country music of old alongside some serious 80’s indie-pop influences, Don DiLego has managed to carve out a sound that is at once both nostalgic in it’s Americana leanings and modern in it’s approach to creating a sonic landscape. Ripe with reverb, detuned guitars, banjo, and pedal steel, DiLego’s most recent recordings seem to fully realize what he began exploring on his first release, The Lonestar Hitchhiker, in 2001.
Born in the far reaches of rural Western Massachusetts, DiLego migrated to Boston after high school, and formed his first band Standing on Earth. After some minor local notoriety, and a brief deal with Sony, the band disbanded and DiLego relocated to New York City where his management was based. It was shortly after, that a couple of studio inspired demos found their way to producer Mike Mangini (Digible Planets, Imani Coppola, Joss Stone). Mangini and DiLego would record three songs that quickly landed him a deal with Universal Records. Almost immediately after, Universal was bought by the beverage company Seagram’s, and DiLego’s future with the label was put on indefinite hold. In the interim, DiLego traveled across the US for six months, writing the rest of what would become The Lonestar Hitchhiker, and changing course on the music he was originally signed to record.
The follow-up record, The Lonestar Companion, was released after his release from Universal, to which Rollingstone.com called him “Alt-country’s next poster boy.” His 3rd release, Photographs of 1971, saw him move towards that sound of combining his penchant for the sounds of country with the lyrical and melodic hooks of his pop heroes. Photographs was met with much critical acclaim and perhaps was DiLego’s first release to garner some serious attention, being featured on WXPN, KCRW, and XM’s The Loft, and introducing him to a national audience.
Following that album’s release in 2006, Don’s focus moved to production, as he had been building a studio outside his hometown of NYC. He began work on a record with Bree Sharp, and released two albums as the electro-twang duo Beautiful Small Machines, which became renown for their banjo-laden cover of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” DiLego also began an ongoing partnership with Jesse Malin (D Generation), and went on to co-write, produce, and play on three of Malin’s releases, up to the most recent, “New York Before the War” and “Outsiders.” DiLego would continue to tour with Malin both in his band, and as a performer, honing the songs that he would eventually come back to for his recent release.
In July 2016, DiLego released his latest solo project, Magnificent Ram A, and a subsequent signing to One Little Indian. Culminating in a few years of scattered writing amongst other production duties and tours, he secluded himself to his Velvet Elk Studios to complete the record in Nov of 2015, and committed to it being his most ambitious release to date. Once again self-producing, he enlisted the musicians that have formed the core of his band over the last couple records, including Gregg Williams on drums and engineering (Blitzen Trapper, Dandy Warhols, Sheryl Crow), Paul Garisto (Psychedelic Furs, Iggy Pop), and songwriting partner Erik Olsen on bass. Portland’s Paul Brainard (Blitzen Trapper, M.Ward, Eels) glued much of the sound together with pedal steel and horn arrangements.