To say a buzz has been brewing over Atlanta locals Gringo Star would downplay the frenetic reverberations on the music industry radar. The allusion to Beatles drummer Ringo Starr remains a cute sarcasm, and fits the band’s style well with the choice of instruments including Rickenbacker and Fender guitars. The microphone used in the video for “All Y’all” off the debut looks like it came straight off the set of the Ed Sullivan show, so I think it’s safe to say Gringo Star is a loving reference to a musical influence.
Gringo Star, as such, came about in 2006; the current line-up includes Nick and Pete Furgiuele, who teamed up with Peter DeLorenzo a decade ago, and Chris Kaufmann.
The foursome made it all the way to SXSW this year with only the eponymous EP (2007) and All Y’all (2008) under their belts; that coupled with the local word of mouth makes it a worthwhile investment of time to check out the latest release, Count Yer Lucky Stars.
The opening track, “Shadow,” changes the game from the grittier, more southern-rock sound in songs like “All Y’all” from the first release to a more jam-band feel. An air of hope and even desperation comes out of the lyrics backed by harmonies. The vocal shimmying on “Got It” makes for a feel-good tune laced with rough, electric guitar work. The drummer keeps it lively without sounding overbearing. The opening line of “Count Your Lucky Stars” calls out to The Yardbirds with its “for your love” tag. This may or may not have been done on purpose, but lends well to the very prominent meld of Southern rock invaded by British influence in Gringo Star’s work.
The dramatic drum rolls in “Esmarelda” almost sound like timpani; the effect of the music sounds symphonic. The following track, “Jessica,” starts with very clear guitar work that recalls the sensation given by the drum rolls in the previous track. Count Yer Lucky Stars works well this way, offering flashbacks and forwards in music. “Make You Mine” has a very earthy or raw quality; maybe something in the tone of the guitars that recalls earlier recordings by bands listened to on vinyl – back before CDs and even cassettes. The music itself does not sound like anything the Monkees wrote, but that distorted, background buzz calls out to my memory of listening to records.
The closing track, “Mexican Coma,” plays with melody more in the guitar line punctuating the vocals. The sly soloing eases the listener as the lyrics, “and I know you just wanna belong, still let’s stay out all night long” The tinny aspect almost sounds like the solo rises from within a steel drum; very difficult to describe, but worth listening to first hand.
Gringo Star play Star Bar on November 19.