It’s dangerous but natural in rock and roll to evoke comparisons with other musicians. Rock is replete with pretenders, borrowers and copycats, but once in a great while comes an artist who channels a spirit with a fresh yet familiar and resonant style. Channeling a mix of rockabilly, folk and country, with a subtext of Latin melodies deftly integrated, comes the first EP from Nebraska guitarist and vocalist Rascal Martinez, or simply, Rascal.
Rascal’s vocals come up out of the Nebraska plain like cool summer swell, evoking the sounds of a reincarnated Buddy Holly. But here is where comparisons from seven deceptively simple songs on “The Long Road” ends. The lyrics are straightforward, carried by addictive melodies. The lyrics are where these songs derive a timeless power. “I needed you, but you left me. I didn’t know what to do. You said you would never leave,” begins the first toe tapping song on the EP. Backed by Marcello Sanchez on drums, that competent and assured beat rounds out a lean but full and almost painfully introspective sound.
I wish that I could take credit for finding this CD, but that credit goes to morning talk host Nate bell on The Morning Dammit show in Chicago, AM1710, and streaming at www.que4.org weekdays 7-9am. Bell, with cohosts Celia Forrest and Shaun Rosten. They featured Rascal Tuesday morning. From the opening of their show I was hooked.
Track 2, “The Times are Over,” and Track 6, “Figure Yourself Out” are the defining pieces. “Please Come to Me” is heartfelt and moody. It borders on the absurd that bragging rights for Rascal and the Pack include winning the 32nd Annual Texaco Country Showdown in North Platte, Nebraska as part of the annual Honky-Tonk Barbeque competition, beating out eight other contestants. There is a clearly a talent here that resonates far beyond Honky-Tonk and the sun-burnt fields of Nebraska. Certainly there will be a story one day told by Rascal that goes something like this “…and then we won the Texaco Country Showdown!” Doubtless that will come at the beginning of a long train of accolades.
It’s likely you’ve never heard of Rascal, but like a storm brewing over the plains, it is only a matter of time before you do. In the meantime, this rare collection of unpretentious songs can be found through the artist. http://www.rascalsentertainment.com/. “The Long Road” is only a taste, but given the beauty of this CD, I can hardly wait for the main course.
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