Well, this motherfucker is going to be huge. Even before you even hear a note, the story behind the album is enticing as all fuck.
Check it: Dude grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, where he listened to snippets of American songs on the radio. One day, Bob Dylan came on and Ondara became straight up obsessed. He listened to everything Zimmerman and knew he wanted to write songs and play guitar. After winning the Green Card lottery, he came to America. In case you don’t know, they don’t call it a Green Card lottery for nothing. There’s a 34-day application period with around 15 million eligible applicants (not including those poor fucks that apply and aren’t eligible), from that selection there are 50 thousand visas to give. In the end, this shit works out to a hope, a dream, a wish, and a good-fucking-luck. Ondara won. But it doesn’t stop there. He moves to Minneapolis cause that’s where Dylan used to hang his hat. He says, “Getting to America was impossible, but the path ahead of me, once I got there, felt even more impossible.” No shit it’s more fucking impossible! Do you know how many talented guitar playing motherfuckers have lived in America their entire lives, with a series of inside connections, with professional lessons in songwriting, singing, and guitar playing, and still can’t catch a fucking break? Basically? The chances of making it big, even with hard work and talent, is like winning the fucking lottery. Somehow, Ondara won. He did covers of songs and threw that shit up on YouTube. Shit got recognized. So fuck rabbit feet, I want a pocketful of Ondara’s toenail clippings if I jump out of a plane.
This album is stripped the fuck down and it works. That’s because Ondara has one hell of a voice. Vocal pops and vibrato accompany his clear and cutting tenor. But that’s not even why it’s good. The dude has an insane ability to inject emotion into every word he fucking says. Think of the Kenyan lovechild of David Gray and Damien Rice. Motherfucker could get me weepy, nostalgic, and introspective singing daily menu specials. One of the songs on this record is just him singing. It’s hauntingly beautiful. If you need more proof that he has a unique gift, just look at how he got here. You think some ordinary sounding fuck would get those chances? His songwriting shows a ton of promise. You can tell he works on this shit a lot. He’s got one hell of a unique perspective of America and its strange dream considering his background. Will he, eventually, be good as the folk legends he looks up to? If he works hard, who knows, it’s possible. And with his fucking luck? I’d say it’s a solid bet.
One thought on “J.S. Ondara – Tales of America”
I’m interested in this because I’m interested in the idea(/lie) of the American dream, and especially American exceptionalism (exceptionally built on slavery, that’s for sure). All the rest, to me, is cool, and no doubt there are some interesting chapter in his story, but I dunno, a bunch of luck doesn’t make for a very interesting origin story, especially when it’s luck that only separates him (not *only luck that* separates him) from so many other ‘talented guitar playing motherfuckers have lived in America their entire lives, with a series of inside connections, with professional lessons in songwriting, singing, and guitar playing.’ The international angle, sure, and I’ll hapilly keep an eye out for him. But between album title, cover, style, and background, not having heard a note of his music, nothing’s really incentivised me to.
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