As The Last Revel grew into a nationally renowned Americana touring act, Vinnie Donatelle was a constant force. He filled several roles for the beloved band—upright bass, fiddle, and vocals—and even moonlit as a frontman on fan favorites such as “California, Be Kind.” Now, with the group on hiatus, Donatelle is stepping fully into the spotlight as Friend Dog. His debut EP, Tending a Timid Flame, was released on October 18, 2021.
The project is not only a showcase for his distinctive singing voice, but also for his guitar work, a skill he honed over the years with some help from The Last Revel co-founder Ryan Acker. It anchors some lovely musical arrangements, from the slap-happy “Desire” to the muscular “Remember to Breathe.”
Behind the mic, Donatelle’s timbre is oaken and world-weary; his voice shifts between bass and baritone, using the former to set scenes and the latter to explore some inspired harmonies with background vocalist Lauren Anderson (a touring member of The Last Revel). The vocals bring to mind low-register giants like Tom Waits and Blaze Foley, while clearly forged in the contemporary folk tradition that Donatelle helped build upon with his band during the 2010s. Friend Dog is here to add to the canon.
[Alex Martin Smith, ILIUM]