Donkey Island Penitentiary rocks
Courtesy of YouTube

OK, your rockin’ reviewer confesses: he was sucked in by the band name alone: Donkey Island Penitentiary. Rather than spoil the fun and reveal why the band is thusly named, let’s just say the self-styled “escaped convicts of Donkey Island Penitentiary” are alive and well in the Los Angeles underground. The band roster currently includes Big Dave Perea (harmonica and vocals), Vincent Perea (drums), producer Alejandro Speranza (guitar) and Miguel Vasquez (bass). Their premiere EP Exile On 4th Street contains five cuts.

The album opener is “Heaven Or Hell”. Here these musical outlaws immediately set the mood with but an initial dose of their driven punk blues sound. The second song, “Man In The Shadows”, further solidifies and nearly cements said signature sound.

The next number is the early fan favorite “Look Into My Eyes Prelude”. Instrumentals almost always make excellent aural palate cleansers of course but this one is more than just that. This track also includes an interesting contrast between two of the band’s no-longer -so-secret ingredients: the blues and an assortment of electronic elements.

It moves right into “Look Into My Eyes”. By this time not only is it clear that the band’s signature sound is somehow both constant and yet fluid but in spirit anyway they are very reminiscent of Los Lobos. Both groups are Hispanic-staffed bands from L.A. and both broke out thanks to punk rock be it the genre or the clubs.

"Going Down" wraps things up here. Not to be confused with the Freddie King recorded and Leon Russell/Don Nix written song from 1969, this closing cut (like the other cuts) is an original composition. It has a classic blues beat that may be at least part of the reason the track is already an early critical favorite.

Overall, this EP include tuneful tales of deals with the devil, vigilante justice and sci-fi time travel as expressed by an obviously-inspired fuzzy harmonica-highlighted punk-powered blues rock band. So check out the Donkey Island Penitentiary’s new EP Exile On 4th Street. Decide for yourself if it’s a bit of “Heaven Or Hell”.

(Special Note: No donkeys were harmed in the making of this album)