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Don Heffington | Gloryland

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Avant Garde: Avant-Americana Folk: Acid Folk Moods: Type: Vocal
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by Don Heffington

Don Heffington steps out from behind the drums to sing ten original songs in an unconventional and somewhat abstract recording. . The album includes one co-write with Allen Ginsberg
Genre: Avant Garde: Avant-Americana
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Flying Over Flagstaff
3:19 $0.99
2. Generator
2:19 $0.99
3. Momo
3:17 $0.99
4. That's Hollywood
3:35 $0.99
5. Time to Drink Whisky
3:11 $0.99
6. Ave C
4:08 $0.99
7. Crablice and Quaaludes
4:06 $0.99
8. Although the Lord Be High Above
3:31 $0.99
9. Put a Kiss and a Tear in Yr Letter
3:00 $0.99
10. Sorry About the Matter
3:40 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
"Don Heffington's music is Zappaesque, Waitsian and Stockhausenish, fronted by a mad hillbilly philosopher-poet. I predict that soon the world will call this music 'Heffingtonly'".

-- Michael Simmons MOJO, High Times, The Huffington Post

The Argonaut Newsweekly
By Bliss Bowen
Don Heffington’s drummed for Sheryl Crow and Bob Dylan, but now he’s singing his own tunes Photo credit to Laura Heffington

Don Heffington’s drummed for Sheryl Crow and
Bob Dylan, but now he’s singing his own tunes
Photo credit to Laura Heffington

Chances are you’ve heard drummer Don Heffington, whether or not you realized it.

Dave Alvin, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Lowell George, Emmylou Harris, the Jayhawks, Rickie Lee Jones, k.d. lang, Lone Justice, Ron Sexsmith, Percy Sledge, Big Mama Thornton, Big Joe Turner, the Wallflowers, Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam: Heffington has recorded and/or performed onstage with them all.

He’s one of “those LA guys” who hit the road with name acts like the Watkins Family Hour, with whom he recently played a string of West Coast dates, then come home to do sessions and squeeze into dim nightclub corners behind lesser-known bands across town. He’s a working musicians’ musician.

And songwriter, though that side of his creative persona rarely emerged in public before he quietly dropped “Gloryland” last year. The 10-track album is a grab bag of droll wit and deliriously musical, oddball songs, from the Fallujah-referencing “Flying Over Flagstaff” through “Crablice and Quaaludes” and the hilarious “Sorry About the Matter,” which sounds like deadpan Catskills standup performed at a junkyard carnival. The sweetest track is a honky-tonk setting of a note written by Allen Ginsberg to Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac, “Put a Kiss and a Tear in Yr Letter.”

Heffington played most of the instruments, and recorded it in pieces with late engineer David Vaught. Its unconventional sonic template may have been sketched out when the lanky drummer was still a shorty.

“I’ve always played some guitar, and I used to have a one-man band when I was a kid; I’d play a banjo-uke and a bass drum, I had some harmonicas, that type of thing, made some racket,” he says, laughing. “I remember my dad used to come in and just shake his head. He thought all was lost.”

“Gloryland” isn’t the first album with Heffington’s name on the cover. He co-wrote and recorded 1995’s “In the Red” with fiddler Tammy Rogers; the mostly instrumental, Appalachian-flavored set includes his gruffly sung hymn “Psalms.” In comparison, “Gloryland” sounds like a happily bedraggled parade of tuba, guitars, mouth harp, piano and spacey sound effects behind Heffington’s surreal lyrics.

“Well Richie’s so souped
he can’t even see
Me I’m lit up like a Christmas tree
But it’s them against us and
it’s him against me
And that’s what’s bad for the ecology
So I just keep right on drinking ’til I drink that toast
To the Father, the Son and
the Holy Ghost
I keep right on digging ’til
I’m deep in my hole
And I’m gone, gone, gone
like a catfish on a pole”


“I wanted it to sound like some drunk falling down the stairs while he was practicing the trombone,” Heffington says of the album. “People compare it to Beefheart and some other things, but you know what they hear? They hear some of the influences.”

Those influences are deeply steeped in jazz — a surprise to fans only familiar with Heffington’s steady beats behind Americana and roots-leaning rock bands.

“It’s exactly where I started,” the Los Angeles native says of his not-so-secret passion for jazz. “I played with a guy named Butch Morris, one of my first bands. He was a brilliant musician … Go on YouTube and look up a thing called the Composition of Conduction with Butch Morris. He had a way to conduct bands in real time; in other words, they were still improvised. The music was formed spontaneously from these hand signals. Absolutely unbelievable.

“When we were kids we were playing Miles [Davis]. I got to see all the great cats — [Thelonious] Monk, John Coltrane. That’s probably where I’d still be if it hadn’t been for Bob Dylan. But, you know, Bob Dylan kinda turned everyone around, me included. That got me into songwriters and folk music. Folk music and jazz, they’re the two big things for me.”

Those twin influences and early immersion in improvisation may explain Heffington’s fluidity on the drums. Sticks in hand, he shifts naturally between rhythms and moods. That and a subtle touch make him popular in the studio with singer-songwriters who appreciate his sensitivity to vocal phrasing and lyrical cadence.

He has another eclectic album in the can that he hopes to release soon, though no specific plans have been put in motion yet.

“The new album I just made’s called ‘Contemporary Abstractions in Folk Song and Dance,’” he says. “That’s got some original things, some co-writes; I got a co-write with Tom Waits on there.”

Some of those still unreleased songs will surface during his set at McCabe’s Sunday night, where he’ll be accompanied by bassist Sebastian Steinberg, guitarist Tim Young and trumpeter Sarah Kramer. He’d like to play more local shows, but his schedule doesn’t allow much time for rehearsal — which, from his perspective, isn’t so bad.

“I’ve got a good band,” he says. “They can turn on a dime. I don’t like things to get too rehearsed, so maybe it’s good we don’t play as much. They’re good either way.”

Don Heffington is known as the drummer of a thousand sessions behind names like Dylan and Emmylou. In 2014, he released his first solo album, Gloryland. Fronting what sounds like a Salvation Army band before they sobered up, it's a collection of folk song laments (or lamentable folk songs) from the perspective of L.A.'s losers. He followed that with 2015's Contemporary Abstractions in Folk Song and Dance, recorded with lead guitarist Tim Young and upright bassist Sebastian Steinberg. That trio plus guests have been packing local clubs like downtown's Love Song bar, wowing 'em with “John Coltrane on the Jukebox” and the Tom Waits co-written “Seeds on Hard Ground,” blending Don's wry spoken/sung delivery with mirthful melody and joyful noise. —Michael Simmons



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