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February 26th, 2014 GRACE STAINBACK | Music Stories
 

Introducing...: Rio Grands

music_riogrands_4017IMAGE: Sean Garmire
Who: Colin Jenkins (vocals, guitar, percussion), Steve Amon (keyboards), Richard Bennett (bass), Lee Ritter (drums).

Sounds like: A ’60s lounge band from Miami time-warped to present-day Portland.

For fans of: Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Pink Martini.

Why you care: Colin Jenkins chronicles Portland weirdness through Rio Grands’ forthcoming A-Z, an album in which every track takes its title from a girl’s name, one for each letter of the alphabet. Imagine “My Cherie Amour” tailored to 26 songs charting the various types of Pacific Northwest-specific relationships—like, for example, the song “Quinn,” about a hippie who frequents Reed College’s Renn Fayre and gets lost in “Burning Man-crowd cuddle puddles.”

“It’s actually kind of silly, and shouldn’t be taken seriously the way a concept album should,” Jenkins says of A-Z, which has been two years in the making. “It was a tongue-in-cheek project exploring the classic song that uses a girl’s name as the hook.” 

After playing in indie-rock bands for years, Jenkins found himself gravitating back to his love of jazz-chord progressions. Everything about the Rio Grands’ sound is classic, from the lounge-ready tunes to the Tascam 16-track reel-to-reel they were recorded on. Lyrically, though, the stories contained on A-Z should be recognizable to all modern-day Portlanders. “Beverly” and “Ivy,” for example, both evoke jazzy Tropicália, but the former tells a tale of getting picked up by the cops and tossed in the drunk tank, while the latter is about a “spiritual space-case,” who Jenkins says is “pretty indicative of a lot of 20-to-40-something Portland culture.” The contrast between the easy-listening harmonies our parents grew up on and the whip-smart lyrics describing someone who could be your neighbor, your yoga teacher or yourself makes for an amusing listen that is quintessentially Portland.


SEE IT: Rio Grands plays Rontoms, 600 E Burnside St., with Smokey Brights, on Sunday, March 2. 9 pm. Free. 21 .

 
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