The Mexican-American Blues

Posted: February 20, 2013 in New Indie Music

Copper Gamins CD coverThe Copper Gamins

Los Ninos de Cobre

Saustex Media, 2012

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

 

   The Copper Gamins are keeping things going with their new CD, Los Ninos de Cobre.  It is a follow up to their debut EP from last year (2012).  They bring an authenticity with their love of the blues and they take their blues-lovin’ sounds to a primitive place where few bands dare to tread.  When I put in this CD in the player and hit play I was blown away by the kickass lo-fi/garage-rock atmosphere of it.  The first two tunes – “All Hid” and “Oh Well Well” are two examples of this beery, laconic garage band that evokes pictures in your mind of being in a smallish-sized club in a hip city somewhere – like Austin, L.A., or New Orleans – maybe Chicago; a dark and seedy bar with a big enough stage for a band to make some hellish rock on.  That is the core essence of The Copper Gamins.

Actually, what really gets me is the vibrato that goes into the guitar and complements the southern version of Television, for example. These guys really blew my mind.  I first read their bio and then thought I knew them, but, I must say that listening to the CD did much more for me in terms of learning about them than reading any bio.  It’s a matter of feeling the vibes of the bitchin’ slide guitar, the cool vibrato strumming, the matter-of-fact, sunglass-wearin’ singing that counts the most.   Like most art you can’t appreciate it for real until you actually experience it firsthand and more than just listening to them on CD, I’d love to see them play live and since I live in San Diego, the perfect place around here to see them would be the Casbah – they have the perfect dark, ungentrified and perfectly imperfect set up for them to shine.  It reads that they take a lot of influence from the blues – old, American black blues and it may be true – they do, but they take that influence and twist & turn it into something that is truly their own.  Once in a while, when they hit an emotional note, I’m reminded a bit of Tom Waits at his bluesiest, beeriest moments.  In fact, that would be a good comparison right there:  a cross between Howlin’ Wolf and Tom Waits.  The perfect garage band for the 21st century.  Here’s hoping they’ll be around in the same great form for some time to come and that they’ll hop over to this border town (San Diego) soon!

The Gamins hail from small mining towns Metepec and Zinacantepec (just outside of Mexico City).  They take inspiration from traditional, Southern, black blues that goes back to the inter-war period, deep in the bowels of Dixie.  After their eponymous debut EP, recorded in an abandoned building in Mexico City, the band struck out around town in search of gigs but were not welcomed many places.  Undaunted, the duo kept at it and persevered.  Soon they found themselves on the northern side of the border, playing gigs in San Antonio and Austin, TX.  Their constant live shows and hard work on stage won them a fan base in the southern part of the Lone Star State.  Next thing you know, they’re playing at SXSW, the yearly showcase of new bands that’s built up, up, up from a modest new-artist showcase to a new-artist showcase that is packed with all sorts of corporate scum oozing around, trying to pimp out the “next big thing” for the parasite major labels for whom they work.  But, of course, the ones who take the bait and sell-out like that at least “weed out” the wheat from the chaff and the “wheat” usually goes on to continue to keep on making great music and if they’re lucky, they may get signed to an indie label or meet up with an influential indie who can steer them in the right direction.

Well, for The Copper Gamins, after playing SXSW in 2012, they were signed by Saustex and the rest, as they say, is history.  Since the promising debut EP last year, the Gamins have been driven by J Carmen, who’s been honing his songwriting skills and producing some great stuff, as can be seen on this album.  For those going to this year’s SXSW, look for The Copper Gamins again, to show up and play a set to more and more people who still haven’t caught on quite yet.

It’s hard to really pick out songs here – e.g., tunes that stand out more than others, since they all have that lo-fi, blues-rock with a Latino tinge to it, but just to give you a few examples:  the sexy romp of “Silver Monkey”, the wicked, funky “Angelitos Negros” (Black Angels), the bop-bop-bop-ing around of “Tell My Sister” as well as the howling, plaintive “Hold My Name”.

These guys are really groovy and since they’re just getting started, I say – keep an eye on them, for they definitely still have some of their best stuff yet to come out.

For more information on them and/or to purchase Los Ninos de Cobre, go to www.saustex.com, where you can always see everything Saustex has available as well.

Keep on rocking – KM.

 

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