Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Both times that Gringo Star has paid Rock Island, Ill., a visit the four members have been worse for wear. They have been beaten down by the hard road, worked over by indifference and forced to win people over the old-fashioned way, by making it hard for them to think otherwise. They are four slow-moving and hesitant toward chatty conversation, maybe because their stomachs are still jostled and unsure from the after hours drinking bingos and the extreme sleep deprivation or maybe it's just a Southern way, but then they plug themselves in and the strings get pulled taut and the bright lights and the reserves are thrown out of their pores and we're transported back into the late 1960s, where the devil was still believed to be making these songs and the young people were possessed by overt sexuality. They were getting affected by this thing called rock and roll, which was off the books. It was something that was to be watched closely and seldom should it have been trusted. It is almost as if Gringo Star - when seen in public, up on that unspectacular stage (a nightly thing), playing their souls out - should be literally showered with the same kind of exasperated stammering and fawning heaped onto the stars of the early days of rock and roll, as if these guys were new versions of the Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Beatles' and all of the American standards in doo wop and R&B that were raging through Detroit and Memphis and Harlem. There is a growing generation of bands doing this very same era of rock and roll justice. Bands like Dr. Dog and Blitzen Trapper amongst others, but there's nothing like hearing the simple melodies and the kinds of rootsy, down-home, almost Bible-thumping fever that come out in songs that are true to the very people putting them out into the world. By all means, we need more of these honest, working bands. Gringo Star is not a band being another band, but a band being the band it's always felt it had to be and there's a big difference there. It reminds me of what makes something authentic and what just makes something a replica, even if the nuances and fractions are few. It's summed up in a story that Wayne Newton recently told about his friend Frank Sinatra after an acquaintance gave him a copy of a new record and asked Old Blue Eyes to listen and tell him what he thought. Sinatra didn't even need to listen to it to be honest with the guy, telling him bluntly, "Some singers are connected between the heart and the throat. You're not connected to anything." It's a harsh sentiment - especially to be dealt eye-to-eye and mouth-to-mouth - but it's a line that applies to Gringo Star, four men who are connected from their hearts to their throats and in all of the right ways that allow the music to be churned and matured to a point where it gets released without pretense. It is assisted by a weariness and oftentimes hoarse recognition of the difficulties of love and the hoarse burden of needing to present these songs for others, no matter how tiring it is. It is work for the ragged and it usually gets better the tougher the times, making everyone feel like the only thing left to do is leave the seat and find someone to dance with even if that's something you never do. These days it would be good to just throw the dark clouds off, to shake them out of our hair and try to get down, to believe in the old times, to believe in the little things, to believe that Gringo Star has a potion and it might make you sweaty and hoarse yourself if you take enough of it.
Gringo Star Official Site