Greyhound Soul – Alma de Galgo / Down

Greyhound Soul
Alma de Galgo / Down

There’s something about a good bluesy, western rock tune that makes me want to drink. There’s been many times I’ve been in a bar, downing a few Virginia Native Darks to a band that blasted out the bluesy riffs with a soulful attitude, and it’s always the perfect accompaniment. While Greyhound Soul is definitely better than your average bar band, these guys’ stellar bluesy rock still makes me long to see them in a small joint, filled with smoke, drinking Native Dark, chatting with some close friends.
Tucson’s Greyhound Soul is not the normal type of band reviewed on DOA, but many of our readers will appreciate this band’s sound, which takes a chapter from the book of Tom Waits, some pages from Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and (soul), and creates a book all of their own. Lead singer Joe Pena has a perfectly gravelly voice that is similar enough to Waits to draw the obvious comparisons but not forced into aping his style. Filled with thick, bluesy guitar riffs, organ, harmonica, and stellar instrumentation all around, Greyhound Soul have crafted two deliciously gritty, soulful, and bluesy rock albums to soothe your dusty soul and to imbibe to.
2001’s Alma de Galgo is a bit rawer in sound, a bit more raucous, as evident from the piano-soaked bar-rock “Love Don’t Rain” that kicks off the album with Pena sounding a bit more like the Boss than Waits. The lap steel guitar adds a true Western feel to the quieter songs like “Nothin.'” The band also holds true to the “soul” in their name with the whiskey-toned “Roll On” and the sweet-sounding “Whole.” But primarily, you get the whiskey-soaked Tom Waits-style vocals of Pena doing surprisingly precise and powerful songs – whether ballads or rockers – like “Walk Away” and the organ-filled beauty of “Shoes.” And after the subtle “Love Me Bad,” the band adds two or three extra songs, perhaps live recordings that come across nicely.
Although recorded only a year later, Down is a tighter and more mature album, even if it is a more laid-back album, as seen from the very beginning of the Neil Young, harmonica- and organ-led “Turn Around,” and you’d almost swear “Comin’ Home” was an outtake from Harvest Moon sung by Willie Nelson. Still, it’s the Tom Waits-style moody tracks, like the almost lovely “Marina” and the soulful “You Could Be the One” that rule this album. His voice a little less gravelly, Pena sounds much smoother on the Wallflower-esque “Drive to the Moon” and the ultra-moody and slick “Rain,” but his lyrics also leave a bit to be desired on songs like “Drag Queen” – “I remember when you used to come over, we made love on a four-leaf clover, but now it’s over” – which ride instead the layers of instrumentation.
So, yes, this isn’t what I normally listen to, but the most talented bands can make you re-think your musical preferences. Fans of Waits, Dylan, and roots-rock will eat this up. This band’s music is soulful, bluesy, gritty, and impeccably performed. The lyrics could be improved a bit, and Pena is leant more of a soulful, sincere sound when he’s not singing so gravelly and gruff, but even the songs with those shortcomings are worthwhile. Nice stuff, definitely suitable for when you need a change.