Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009


Yankee Gaucho: Wandering Companion / OMN Featured Video

Yankee Gaucho is the brainchild of Portland, Oregon-based, Argentine American Ronjon Datta.  Their debut full-length album, Rock 'n' Roll ConFusion, is a combination of flamenco guitar, Spanish and English folk, rock 'n' roll, and various other genres. 


We are told:

Yankee Gaucho
Rock ‘n’ Roll ConFusion

See another Sun. A different day, a new place. Emerge from your darkness with a new song.  Yankee Gaucho is the story of a traveler with a guitar, and a heart composed of music -traversing foreign culture and facing introspection. This band’s debut album expresses the art & nature of cultural & temporal fusion. The emotion of the LP describes the exhilaration and frustration of being a foreigner, and the desire to connect with fellow humans.


The moniker ‘Yankee Gaucho’ has been carried by band leader Ronjon Datta for several years, once bestowed upon him by a most gracious young lad while traveling in Argentina and learning the Gaucho music. ‘Folclore’ is a liberating music that sings the tales of an era, and the sentiments of a people. It is often sung impromptu in the corners of dining and drinking establishments, and sometimes until sunrise. Though mostly an antiquated music, Ronjon was fortunate enough to find himself amongst its most authentic forms on a daily basis. Yes, until sunrise.

While the grandiose emotion of Latin folk music allowed Ronjon to explore his vocals and musical being, his artistic vision was much greater. Yankee Gaucho’s first cover songs entwined the gracious melodies and poetry of Folclore with the variegated rock and roll styles he knows so well. The compositions discover time signature changes, adventurous bridges, unique picking patterns. Ronjon’s Spanish guitar uses tasteful effects, and recordings find electric guitar and Hammond organ. The spirit and meaning of the original influences will never be lost; they are in the song and rhythm. More recently, the project takes on styles of Flamenco, Samba, U.S. country music, psychedelia and more, some of which can be heard on the new album.


Ronjon landed in Portland OR, where the current band was assembled. The fiery passion and glassy tones of lead guitarist Mark Kellogg dance the stages, the heavily melodic and super groovy bass lines of Jon Zaerr are felt equally in the head and the waist, and the energetic and tastefully nuanced drumming of Jay Leaver make it hard to sit still. The band has been gracing the Portland stages for over five years now. Though primarily a live performance act, their creativity and original music would take them to the studio.

The Album: Rock ‘n’ Roll ConFusion

There was no confusion about making this album. Demos for live promotion evolved into the basis for album tracks. Original music blossomed amongst the collaboration of artists. The album recordings came out like the band wanted – raw and rough around the edges with the same live energy that has made so many heads groove, and so many moods sway. The album is a mix of original songs and versions of Argentine covers – They chose the ones that are the most creative of their renditions.

This LP features several guest players. Ronjon says, amid envisioning a record, that many of his talented friends would participate, including the cover artist and graphic designer. “I couldn’t have it any other way, because, largely, my compadres have made me who I am. They are part of the journey which is this music”. Close friend Ezra Meredith of the Deer Lodge is the sound engineer.

The band’s recommendation is to listen to the LP front to back – It was made for album lovers.

The album opens with the most adventurous of interpretations, expressed in two parts. It is a big Argentine folk song called Piedra y Camino (Atahualpa Yupanqui); a song about a drifter who struggles to connect with everyday life and people. His heart is big, his soul tangled. In a Pink Floyd-esque manner, Ronjon enters singing solo, swimming through his analog-delayed guitar. He sings a second, live-delayed vocal to add. Lost in a canyon, deep in introspection. This segues into a section of original poetry over a spaced-out country folk guitar, inspired by Marisa Anderson’s Into the Light, echoing the desert climate. Guest violinist, and original Yankee Gaucho member Rosalie Crowe hits the gas for the second half of the song as it slides into its traditional form.

Track two is another popular one from Argentina, Zamba Para Olvidarte (Daniel Toro). “The song I wrote to forget you” also “repeats itself on my guitar”. Just as Ronjon performs it live, it opens with reverse-delayed guitar picking. It then slips into a very driving and passionate version of this song, sung and played with a bit of punk attitude. The frustration of being a foreigner, to your lover. The track exhibits an extended bridge of two parts – a dreamy journey into the ripping climax featuring Hammond organ. Ronjon whips out the Mexi-Strat for the close. As many of us know, heartbreak is a long journey, and sometimes moves in reverse.

The third song is an original – Wandering Companion. It is the first song Ronjon wrote, and the band’s website holds a rough and very fun home recording of it. It is inspired by the Bolivian Carnavalito, in particular Carnavalito del Duende. This version was refined to meet the standards of the album, and features colorful electric guitar work by Josh “Jawsh” Holmes (Barry Walker & the Tanks, No One of Consequence). Drummer Jay Leaver’s ecstatic drumming stands out – congas are in the kit (just like on stage) – along with a lively guitar solo by Mark Kellogg. Let it be known: Wandering is fun.

The B-side of the vinyl record starts with a heartbeat of a kick drum, followed by the ride cymbal taps of a driving soul song. This original tune Death, Booze & Saxophone is the crux of a new direction Yankee Gaucho will see. It demonstrates the first introduction of Flamenco, and is fused, in this case, with U.S. soul music. The melody is from the flamenco traditional, “Zorongo”. With multiple sections, and again the Hammond organ, the band deems it their dark funky prog-y tune. Lyrically introspective, exploring doom, cynicism, passion, and the passing of time. Similar to Flamenco song, it is a string of poetic verses with no chorus. Featured: Unkle Levy and his maniacal Death Sax solo.

The third original completes the inner workings of the conceptual sandwich that will be followed by two more Argentine folk songs. Relief from Addiction is a series of verses and instrumental bridges, with lyrical musings in Spanish and English. The song utilizes Argentine Zamba rhythm, and Rock styles. It’s an unconventional song structure that is still accessible. The song is ultimately defined by the bass line that Zaerr created, taking Ronjon’s folk tune into another reality. It is rounded out by more of Mark’s compelling lead guitar accompaniment.

The final track is two folk songs combined – La Siete de Abril and Victor Jara’s (Chile) Zamba del Che, a story of Che Guevarra. The former describes a town that has seen much war, and is a place where Gauchos go to sing their troubles. The band’s interpretation aims for sludge, with some subtle effects. Zamba Che features the talented Yumi Torimaru (Takohachi Portland) who plays beautiful accompaniment on Shinobue, a Japanese bamboo flute.

More to come:

Yankee Gaucho is eternally grateful for the influence of powerful song from the Gauchos, and has eyes wide open for future expansion. The band will be performing live, A LOT, and Ronjon is composing his newest fusions of Flamenco, Samba, world Folk, Psychedelia, good ole U.S. country-style rock ‘n’ roll music, amongst the varied instrumentation. The possibilities are as vast as creativity itself.



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