After issuing a raw, homemade solo-acoustic album early in the COVID pandemic to a great response, Grammy-nominated Twin Cities folkie Ondara went back into the studio and worked with a well-heeled band for his next record.
Titled "Spanish Villager No. 3," the Kenya native's third LP is due out Sept. 16 via Verve Records. Details were revealed Wednesday along with the opening track and first single, "An Alien in Minneapolis," an ethereally vibed, synth-entwined track that furthers the immigrant tunesmith's themes of alienation and self-discovery.
However, "Spanish Villager" promises to be something different from the 29-year-old singer/songwriter formerly known as J.S. Ondara and Jay Smart: It's a concept album based on a graphic novel that he also created, which itself seems to be based on an alter-ego of his.
"I think of the whole project as one epic poem," Ondara said in Wednesday's announcement. He went on to describe the album's namesake character this way: "He formed himself during some of my darkest times, and as he came to life, he carried in his heart all the anxieties I had about my journey and about this new world I had moved to."
"Spanish Villager" once again paired Ondara with Los Angeles producer Mike Viola (Jenny Lewis, Ryan Adams), who in turn brought in members of Dawes and other seasoned L.A. players to serve as backing musicians. That was a similar scenario to the making of his Verve debut, 2019's "Tales of America," which earned a Grammy nomination for best Americana album.
Ondara made the follow-up, "Folk N' Roll Vol. 1: Tales of Isolation," at home in Minneapolis during the first few weeks of COVID lockdown.