With a Little Help from Their Friends

Greyhound Soul maintains a classic sound despite an ever-shifting lineup.

A lot of bands might object to being called a "classic rock" band. Inspiring visions of that Aerosmith song you've heard nine times too many, the tag has come to take on somewhat negative connotations, especially to describe a band that is about to release only its second CD. But the members of Greyhound Soul take it as a compliment, as it was meant to be taken.

Classic rock, after all, is nothing if not timeless. And the songs on Alma de Galgo (808 Records), the band's sophomore effort following its debut, Freaks (Redbeard), released all the way back in 1996, sound as if they could have just as easily been released in 1971 as 2001, without at all seeming dated.

"The songs are really simple, really basic, and I think that's what we have in common with bands that have come to be known as 'classic rock,'" explains singer/songwriter/ guitarist Joe Peña, the only constant, save bassist Duane Hollis, in the band's ever-shifting lineup.

You can never be quite sure who else will be filling out the roster at any given time, but the current rotation of the band is rounded out by drummers Winston Watson and Tommy Larkins, guitarist Jason DeCorse and keyboardist Glen Corey.

Hollis says, "It doesn't really matter what configuration we're playing with. I mean, obviously, the more of us, the better, because it's just a bigger sound. But Joey's songs are sort of like Neil Young's--they sound good with just an acoustic guitar, and they sound good with Crazy Horse backing him up."

The comparison is apt. For one thing, the live version of Greyhound Soul is a different beast than that found on either of the band's discs. The recorded versions are concisely written songs, whereas on stage the band stretches them out and improvises around them.

Peña: "Sometimes when we're jamming, you just get so lost in the sounds that are happening around you that you just don't want to stop. And then suddenly it hits you that someone out there is probably getting sick of it, so you have to." Corey adds, "But no matter how long a song goes on, there's always someone out there still spinning to it."

The key to Greyhound Soul's sound is twofold.

First, there's Peña and his songs, which borrow from (as well as old Neil) the traditional white-boy blues-rock canon, probably most notably the Rolling Stones during their Mick Taylor heyday. Peña has a trad-rock voice to die for, in all its nicotine-stained, desert-scorched gravely sensuality. He's the kind of guy who can stretch a one-syllable word into seven, and somehow manage to get away with it.

And then there's the fact that he chooses to surround himself with players who not only have serious chops, but the passion to go along with it. The band is a paragon of mutual respect. "I go to bed every night with a smile on my face because I can't believe I'm in Greyhound Soul," states Corey, the band's newest member.

The band recently arranged an overseas distribution deal for both discs with a German label, which will fund an upcoming month-long tour of Europe in April and May. It will be their first time together overseas, a prospect of which the boys are obviously excited. "It'll be great to do it with friends, people that I'm actually excited to be traveling with," says Peña.

For a band that's been around since 1994, there's clearly a sense of rebirth with the release of the new album, which has been three years in the making.

"It's really amazing that we're still around, that we didn't give up at some point," says Peña. "The first album just seemed like we were putting out a record. It was all paid for, and it just sort of happened. There were just too many people involved in it," he says, referring to contracts the band had signed with Redbeard's Dan Kennedy and manager Mike Lembo, which held up the process, in addition to the usual financial woes and a botched previous attempt at recording the disc.

"This one took so long, it was just us doing it because we really wanted to do it, not because anyone was pushing us to do it. I'm trying really hard to suppress it, but I really am proud of this record. Not just for me, but for all of us, because we actually did it and I think it's a really good record."

Hollis is quick to add that it wouldn't have happened without a little help from their friends. "We have some of the most amazing fans in the world. I can't even call them fans anymore; they've become friends. But they helped us pay for this record, they maintain our Web site (www.greyhoundsoul.com), they just do so much for us."

Peña quips, "Yeah, and God willing, we'll be able to pay them back."

Greyhound Soul celebrates the release of Alma de Galgo with a performance at 9 p.m. on Friday, February 2 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Fourkiller Flats opens the show. For more information call 622-8848.