On Monday night, Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country—featuring Donato on guitar and vocals, Nathan "Sugar Leg" Aronowitz on keys and vocals, Will "Mustang" McGee on bass and vocals, and Will "Bronco" Clark on drums—found the perfect setting to conclude their West Coast tour. This region, spanning the high desert areas of Pioneertown, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and Landers, is steeped in a history of reported close encounters and has been a hub for renowned Ufologists.
Perched atop a mountaintop, amidst a rare rainstorm, and located at the end of Mane Street in the Old Western backdrop of Pioneertown, Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace—with its weathered wooden structures, vintage decor, and frontier-town aesthetic—provided an ideal stage for Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country to perform their unique intergalactic honky-tonk. This brand of music transcends traditional country, presenting a cosmic twist that is distinctly its own.
Donato’s shows are known for their eclectic mix of covers and originals, and this evening was no exception. The setlist included aptly chosen titles and fitting tributes, alongside a surprise sit-in from an award-winning photographer. The night began with the fittingly named “Sunshine in the Rain” and Gram Parsons’ original “Ooh Las Vegas”. The reference to Gram Parsons, who passed away under mysterious circumstances in 1973 just a few miles away in Room 8 at the Joshua Tree Inn, showed a deep understanding of the area. The rest of the set featured predominantly songs from their latest album, 'Reflector', including “Hi-Country”, “Gotta Get Southbound”, and concluded with a spectacular rendition of “Double Exposure”. This final performance included an interactive element for the audience; it was announced before the show that a music video for "Double Exposure" was being filmed, and everyone was encouraged to record videos on their phones to contribute to the project.
The second set began with acclaimed photographer Danny Clinch, who had been overseeing the video efforts, joining the band on harmonica for several songs. These included renditions of Willie Nelson’s “Devil in a Sleeping Bag” and Little Milton’s “That’s What Love Will Make You Do”, with Mustang taking the lead vocals. The set continued with a selection of songs from previously released albums, such as the Manfred Mann/Tony Hazard original “Fox on the Run” from 'Cosmic Country & Western Songs', as well as “Sugar Leg Rag”, “Til the Daylight”, and the concluding “Rose in a Garden” from 'Reflector'. The night ended with a segue apt for the setting: the Sons of the Pioneers' “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” flowing into “Dance in the Desert” from 'Reflector', sending the audience off into the starry night.
Be sure to catch Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country on their East Coast tour in February, or at the Jam Cruise and Winter Wondergrass Steamboat, or during their Midwest tour in March. Experience these intimate shows now, as their growing popularity suggests they won’t remain small-scale for long!