A Pre-Existing Condition
[Rating: 3 stars]
Minnesota-based singer-songwriter David Dondero is clearly a fan of Conor Oberst, the shapeshifting, hyper-literate folk poet responsible for many of the millennium’s most acclaimed albums as the chief songwriter in Bright Eyes. The two artists share a whining, whirring, borderline irritating tenor, a polarizing yet fascinating instrument that rises above their respective songs and, for better or worse, defines them.
But wait a second…Dondero’s no newcomer. At over ten years Obserst’s senior, Dondero has been around the block and made a name for himself when Oberst was still in elementary school (Then again, Oberst started writing songs when he was in elementary school). Considering that Oberst has publicly acknowledged Dondero’s influence on his songwriting (and, one can assume, his singing voice), it’s best if one can forget about the Bright Eyes comparison and simply enjoy A Pre-Existing Condition, an album of ultra-simple folk tunes (nine of the 13 tracks are covers from folks like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Jimmie Rodgers) on its own merits. But it’s really hard.
There’s a subtle grace to A Pre-Existing Condition. In stripping away the electric guitars of his previous work and focusing on a sonically consistent theme, Dondero’s definitely come away with a collection of songs that hang together very well—quite an accomplishment considering the broad variety of artists covered on the project. But most of the album lacks a certain spark.
At the end of “T for Texas,” his straightforward cover of the charming Jimmie Rodgers classic, Dondero makes one original choice, ending with the bitter, unsubtle line “I’m gonna shoot that dirty hipster that stole away my voice.” It’s tough living in the shadows.