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Combine – 1997 (Pravda)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Gringo

The second album from the Nashville-based band Gringo has a sound that both traditional and alternative country fans can embrace. The minimalist production is reminiscent of early acts like the Carter Family, and more recently Freakwater.

The lead vocalist and guitarist, known simply as Jim, writes songs ("The Estate Sale" and "Bastard Son") that stand up well against covers of bluegrass and country classics. Banjoist Martin O'Doherty leads the way musically while bassist Leila Vartanian supplies nice harmonies. Highlights are new treatments of such classics as Shel Silverstein's "25 Minutes to Go," Carter Stanley's "In Heaven You'll Never Grow Old" and a couple of Hank tunes.

Gringo has a dark sound - even "How Mountain Girls Can Love" has an ominous sound - but this is a compelling album from start to finish.