For a few years, there was no more thrilling guitar player in the Broadway honky-tonks than Daniel Donato. The fresh-faced kid — he was just 16 — was the sharpshooting sideman in the Don Kelley Band, commanding tips from tourists four nights a week at Nashville hot spot Robert’s Western World. Now 25, Donato will release his debut solo album, A Young Man’s Country, on Friday.
Ahead of the LP, the Nashville native unveils an animated video for the track “Justice” that captures the cosmic-country vibes of his music. There are traces of the Grateful Dead (one of his chief influences) mixed with the Telecaster twang of Waylon Jennings. Donato says “Justice” is a cross between country and the Dead, and pairs an upbeat vibe with a sad lyric.
“It sounds happy, kind of like ‘Sugar Magnolia.’ But the riff to this song is reminiscent of Nineties country and outlaw country,” he tells Rolling Stone. “Lyrically, the story comes to life in the hook, just as a country song should, at the hook line ‘ain’t no justice, unless it’s just us.’ I had just broken up with my first love, but was still in love. A confusing crossroads many of us have been at.”
Donato produced A Young Man’s Country with Robben Ford, recording the LP at Nashville’s Sound Emporium in December.
“[‘Justice’] gets completely cosmic at the end by going into a different world musically,” Donato says. “The video reflects that transition perfectly. This, to me, is a ‘Cosmic Country’ song.”
The “Justice” video was animated by Giorgos Kapsanakis, Nikos Giannakakis, and Stathis Kefalas.
It may look like another billboard to anyone not from here. But here in Nashville, we all know this billboard. This billboard on Broadway, is the one and only “Nashville Sign.” I was there when they built it 11 years ago. I was busking on that exact same street with my Telecaster on a day very much like today. Any day you’re on the Nashville Sign is a sign for a good day. Huge thanks to Michael Weintrob, and the whole Instrumenthead Team, with Gregory Burns, for helping make this happen. The listeners, fans, and Cosmic Country Club members for keeping it Cosmic with me since day one.