The press picture of Johnny Franco, and the description of him as a “moustachioed Brazilian spaghetti western rock and roll troubadour” might set the cliché warning meter running. The opening bars of ‘Treated like Grass’ would do nothing to dispel this, but by the end of this cracking song Franco’s writing and performance will have won you over.
The rest of ‘Treated Like Grass’ feels more like The Byrds’ entry to ‘Nuggets’. It bowls along on a Farfisa organ riff and a whistling solo, which actually works. This EP is clearly designed t showcase as many aspects of Franco’s music as possible. ‘Immediate Love’ draws on softer influences, and wouldn’t be out of place on ‘Harvest’. ‘Tell Me Something I Don’t Know’ introduces a barroom piano and is as strong a song as the opener. While it might sound like a lazy comparison the closest one overall, and particularly on this song is Willy/Mink De Ville.
Closing song ‘D.A.N.D’ (daytime, afternoon, night and dawn) is the most experimental and original song here. Soul influences creep in, a Fender Rhodes solo and a gospel-style chorus, mixed with Banjo. Johnny Franco is a genuine new talent and this E.P. makes for a great start to his career. His music has taken him from Sao Paolo to Portland so far. It could well take him much further.