An ambitious and complex album that feels transportative, although not everyone might be up for the journey.
The band Yankee Gaucho got their name from a moniker once given to band leader Ronjon Datta, and while their sound may be rooted in Latin folk music, Datta’s ambitious vision means they have come to explore so much more on the band’s debut album ‘Rock ‘n’ ConFusion’: flamenco, samba, country and psychedelia are all influences they managed to include, not forgetting a little rock ‘n’ roll too – although there is, thankfully, no confusion about it when it comes to skilfully blending the style amongst their varied palette of influences.
The album opener is ‘Piedra y Camino Pt I & II’, an Argentinian folk song about a drifter who struggles to connect with the everyday that’s so epic it’s split into two parts, it’s only original lyrics being a long interlude of poetry spoken by Datta: “Well I sold my body to the harmonies of the dust / Scraped my cells into the corridors of the wind,” comes his voice, captivating somehow with an almost hypnotic quality. “Meet me on the rock / I left you a message,” he continues before giving way to swelling Spanish guitar. The somewhat gritty, reverse of the guitar picking at the beginning of ‘Zamba Para Olvidarte’ melds surprisingly smoothly into a driving Latin rhythm as Datta speaks passionately of the frustration a lover may find of their partner being from foreign climes.
The first of the three original compositions on the album – and the first song Detta ever wrote – ‘Wandering Companion’ has a real lively rock ‘n’ roll heart with a distinct Spanish romantic bent. “Where do the questions go / Stuck in ethereal folds / Thought I had it locked in my habits, I’ll tie my boots again,” Detta says of the joy of travel. “Comes when you least expect him, gives perspective where you didn’t check it / In when the North Winds blow, and gone when your eyes were closed.” ‘Death, Booze & Saxophone’ featured the injection of flamenco alongside the sound of an organ; a dark, but intriguing mix. “But he’ll try till he dies / Never hesitant to fly,” Detta tells us, continuing forebodingly: “Our lost angel never cries / Drowns only in pavement and sunlight.”
‘Relief from Addiction’, the third and final original track on the record, is as dark and twisting lyrically as it is musically: “The debt of my gratitude will be paid / By the will that I saved / To taste your world / And lie in your grave,” Datta warns, the lyrics then interspersed with lines in both Spanish and English throughout a series of verses followed by instrumental bridges, the music winding and shifting along. The final track is actually two fascinating folk songs combined, ‘La Siete de Abril’ and ‘Zamba del Che’, the former being the tale of a place where the sorrows of war can be sung away, and the later a story of Che Guevarra.
Given the interesting scope of their debut album, you might wonder if Yankee Gaucho aren’t spent creatively, but even with plenty of live shows coming up, they are not a band to rest on their laurels reporting that Datta is already “composing his newest fusions” of those many and varied influences, which is good news for fans of music who like that Americana not just plain, but with an added dash of unexpected spice, even if the flavouring sometimes overwhelms and doesn’t always taste as expected.