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Ricko Donovan
Ricko Donovan is an award-winning singer/songwriter who plays a variety of stringed instruments, a hammered dulcimer virtuoso, silent film composer, and a critically acclaimed novelist. His debut novel Sunnyville made Nashville Lifestyle Magazine’s 2014 Summer Reading List Pics. The Broken Promised Land, begun in 1994, was completed and published in 2015.


DSC03142Growing up playing in punk-oriented bands New Jersey, he relocated to Baltimore and during the early 90s joined a most memorable and exciting era for the music scene. Playing drums for alternative rock band The Last Few Days, he and his bandmates carved a niche for themselves and released records, most notably a vinyl 12″ single Reality Jungle Dance. Ricko’s backbeat provided the thunder for virtuoso British songwriter Richard Bannister’s distinctive and thoughtful compositions. When the Baltimore music scene’s heyday began to fade and The Last Few Days disbanded, Donovan headed for Nashville TN, retiring his drum kit for guitar, songwriting, and a new instrument- the hammered dulcimer.

He released an EP Allure that pioneered hammered dulcimer into the rock format. Nashville provided wonderful transformative years for Donovan, and he played across Lower Broad and uptown alongside such talent as Hayseed and Greg Garing. The hammered dulcimer lent a new element to other artists, and became a distinctive context for his own work.  In 1994, he teamed up with former MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, who produced a full-length CD Bondage, a dark contrast to the lighter touch of Allure.  The Nashville Scene praised the record as one of the more innovative releases that year, where Ricko “can make the personal political and the political personal and make it really work.” At the same time he performed regularly with The Perfumed Garden/Cafe Orchestra, a live act that featured belly dancers and a middle-eastern music troupe.

Regularly playing venues in Music City, in 1998 Devil At My Door won Best Song in the Alt Country category in Nashville’s Spree Songwriting Competition.  National radio airplay followed.  In 1998 Donovan moved to Europe.  Based in Madrid Spain, he regularly spent summers in County Clare, Ireland- a hotbed for traditional Irish music.  There he honed his skills on the hammered dulcimer, playing alongside such legendary Irish musicians as Christy Barry and Charlie Piggot of De Danaan and building a repertoire that landed him a three-year residency at the prestigious Gregan’s Castle Hotel in Ballyvaughn.  Radio personality Cormac MacConnell touted Donovan “a skilful master of a unique and beautiful instrument.” A series of gigs throughout Europe seasoned his voice as well and The Clare Champion noted “he renders ballads with the greatest sensitivity and the rest with the reckless abandon of a steamrolling train with no brakes.”  Donovan returned stateside sporadically during these years, most notably in 2001 to front the full house band at Seanachie Irish Pub on Lower Broad in Nashville.  In Ireland he released The Hidden Well, a full-length CD that featured hammered dulcimer.  That record and it’s follow-up The Laughing Silver String featured inspired dulcimer playing alongside other traditional folk instruments that would become part of the playlist for Clare FM, as did a new record of adventurous songs in the folk category, The Kilmoon Road.  A more personal and acoustic-based record, Irish Music Magazine touted The Kilmoon Road, a rollercoaster ride…haunting and visceral”, and Donovan, “a powerful new voice in Irish folk.”

Ricko Donovan - Hammer Dulcimer

Ricko Donovan – Hammer Dulcimer

In 2005, Donovan returned Stateside to continue promoting the record, touring regularly all across the United States out of his old home Nashville, TN.  In 2009, he compiled enough material for a powerhouse follow-up to The Kilmoon Road called Lucky Sevens.  Broadening the spectrum of acoustic instruments to include Donovan’s finesse on mandolina and mandocello, the record stylistically bridges Irish and Americana, a fusion that evolved over years and has culminated in Ricko Donovan’s own genre- Americeltic.  A sound like no other, it is an explosion of folk energy from the man of many strings.  It is a performance like no other and continues to evolve with the use of a looping technique to leave audiences spellbound in the Donovan magic.

2011’s, Full On, is a collection of traditional Irish songs and tunes, featuring Donovan’s voice and instruments exclusively.

That same year, Donovan retired from regular music touring and two extraordinary novels were brought to life, Sunnyville and The Broken Promised Land. He is currently promoting both novels and working on a third book.

“A rollercoaster ride…haunting and visceral, a powerful new voice in Irish folk.”
-Irish Music Magazine

“A skillfull master of a unique and beautiful instrument.”-Cormac MacConnell, Clare FM Radio Ireland

“He renders Irish ballads with the greatest sensitivity and the rest with the reckless abandon of a steamrolling train with no brakes…” – The Clare Champion