By Nick Christophers
As I sat there in the spacious loft of the renovated Brooklyn firehouse, I was blown away by the sounds that emanated from the seven-piece band in front of me. They took me on a nostalgic ride to the time when words and music meant something. As one of the lead singers, Dante DeLemos, belted out the lyrics to their single “A Revelations Gonna Come” it catapulted me to the sounds of The Eagles and a bit of Bob Dylan. The band has been officially together for a fairly short time, but some of them have played together for many years in other projects.
The band was originally named DRW, and they released their first album in 2010, and another in 2012. Since changing their name to American Nomads, they have released their self-titled album in 2014. Their sound cuts through a timeless array of genres from Tex-Mex to country rock. The wordsmith Richard Humann, who’s best known as a Neo-Conceptual artist, has a prolific gift of weaving a story, much like Dylan and Springsteen have done. The rest of the band’s profile is like a “who’s who” of a talent pool.
American Nomads are: Walter Kenul (Lead & background Vocals, Accordion, Hammond B3), Dante DeLemos (Lead & Background Vocals, Lead Guitar, Cuatro), Susan Darmiento (Lead & background Vocals), George LaGrange (Rhythm Guitar, Background Vocals), Joseph Humann (Harmonica, Background Vocals), Jay Rivera (Bass, Background Vocals) and Joe Conoscenti (Drums). David Mansfield, who has performed with Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, T-Bone Burnett, Dwight Yoakam, and Don Henley among many others, plays fiddle on a number of their songs, and Gerald Menke has been performing live with them on Pedal Steel. Collectively, they have many, many years of musical experience.
Sammy Merendino was the drummer for DRW and recorded most of the tracks on the first American Nomads album. Sammy has a resume that speaks volumes when it comes to playing with the best. He has recorded and performed with such A-list talent like Billy Joel, Cindy Lauper, Joan Osborne, Hall and Oates, Sarah McLachlan and Michael Jackson. Besides that, he has over fifteen Gold and Platinum records under his belt. And just to give it another kick, he is the drummer for the Broadway production of Kinky Boots. Then there is the female vocalist, Susan Darmiento, who has performed in some of the most iconic clubs in the New York area (CBGB’s, The Iridium Jazz Club, The Duplex, Don’t Tell Mama, The Lone Star Cafe, and Upstairs at Greene Street).
The band came together when Walter, Dante, and Richard were at first looking at it as a project, then over the course of time it evolved into American Nomads. Richard came up with the name, and was inspired by the Great Depression’s hobos that rode the railways from town to town, traveling all the time much like musicians have always done, and still do today. A nickname for those traveling hobo’s was “American Nomads” and that’s where the name of the band originated. The skull on the coin image that has been so associated with the band, comes from the same hobos carving images into Buffalo nickels to kill time on their journeys. The “American Nomad” logo image is of a 1929 “hobo nickel” that has the skull carved into it.
“Every member offers a unique element to the group. From Walter and Dante, with their musical compositions, powerful vocals and proficient instrument playing, to Susan’s beautiful voice, Joseph’s amazing harmonica playing, George’s talented guitar, Jay’s pounding bass lines, and Joe’s rhythmic drumming—it is an endless flow of talent,” says Richard.
Like the skull that is ever present in their image is meant to represent Americana, a time long gone, the lyrics convey much of the time period of the 1929 Buffalo nickel. Tracks like “White Lightning” and “Whiskey Train” are indicative of that time. But not all their lyrics are dark and sad. There are others like “What We’re Made Of” and “Lost Inside The Chords” that bring out a different and upbeat flavor. Yet the band really likes to feel that their music is a celebration of the American dream, not so much the loss of it.
“We also like to preserve the sounds we heard growing up, like Dylan, The Eagles, Clapton, The Band, and so on. We like to try to keep that sound alive somehow through our own music,” added Walter.
Their single “A Revelation’s Gonna Come” reached #6 on the Billboard Americana Charts and garnered over 30 thousand radio spins. It// has passed the first round for Grammy consideration for Best American Roots Song. That alone is an amazing task. They are waiting to hear what is next in store with that monumental development. Joe Vulpis, their producer, believes in their talent and has been a driving force for them from the beginning. Joe has worked on Lady Gaga’s first album and was the piano player for Ritche Blackmore (Rainbow, Deep Purple) among producing and performing with many other musicians.
The second single, “Dogtooth Bend” with Walter as lead vocalist, (Music by Walter Kenul, Dante DeLemos; Lyrics by Richard Humann) has already received radio play for the last eight weeks. The video for “Dogtooth Bend” is also due out soon in 2016. Also on the horizon in early 2017 is their new album.
The band has graced many stages, with the downtown club DROM becoming one of their favorites. They are also due to perform at the legendary Bitter End on October 22. If blood, guts and raw talent are what you are looking for, then American Nomads are the ticket!