California has long been the muse of pop culture, with everyone from the beat poets to the Beach Boys to the Grateful Dead at one point or another staring into the Pacific Ocean and seeing a universe of inspiration. The Donkeys are another in a long line of California dreamers, hailing from San Diego and slowly moving from their twangy alt-country beginnings into a far more sun-dazed take on slightly psychedelic indie rock. Fourth album Ride the Black Wave continues the obsession with the beaches and vibrations of their home state, beginning with the swirling joy of the appropriately titled two-chord wash of "Sunny Daze," a song that channels the breezy harmony vocals of America, CSNY, or even the Eagles and weaves them into a fuzzy daydream the song's narrator is having about moving to France or maybe getting a job as a bus driver. It's decidedly lighthearted but stays compelling and ever-listenable despite its wandering feel. The Donkeys return to their back-porch alt-country roots on "I Heart Alabama," a loose and drum-free number somewhere between the Byrds' traditional country period and mid-'90s acts like Son Volt. The band takes sidetracks into soft harmony-laden interludes ("Brown Eyed Lady"), Mellotron-driven pop ("Scissor Me Cigs"), and dark, slinky psych rock ("Ride the Black Wave") as the album rolls on, many of the songs referencing California, its beaches, the sea, and the sun-drenched culture. By the end, listeners will feel like they've been laying out in the sun all day, warm in the glow of the Donkeys' heartfelt love for all things Cali, complete with the sound of washing waves and seagull cries.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas