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Adios, gringo!

Roger Clyne makes a run for the border


Had Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers been around in the early part of the 20th century, frolicking across the U.S.-Mexican border playing music (which they do), they might have counted Pancho Villa among their fans. Not for being lawless banditos spreading mayhem across the border, like Villa, but because their music is a cross between unrepentant, hot-blooded rock ’n’ roll and the unyielding intensity and mystery of the desert sun. What Bruce Springsteen was to the Midwest, Roger Clyne is to the Southwest: a rock ’n’ roll figure helplessly entangled with his sense of place and belonging, and in turn producing razor-sharp music. So it should come as no big surprise when someone like Alice Cooper calls Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers “the baddest hombres this side of the Rio Grande,” adding that “even though they’re nice guys, had they been born 100 years ago they surely would have been hung in some border town for kissing the wrong señoritas and probably robbing the bank.” Again, not unlike Pancho Villa.

Before forming the Peacemakers, Clyne enjoyed an accomplished stint with The Refreshments, a late-’90s rock band whose album Fizzy Fuzzy, Big & Buzzy showcased the hit singles “Banditos” and “Down Together.” The Refreshments ultimately disbanded and Clyne and drummer P.H. Naffah established the Peacemakers in 1998.

The band’s fourth and latest album, ¡Americano!, released earlier this year, debuted in the top 20 of six different Billboard charts, landing two number-one entries: one for Top Internet Sales and another for Top Mountain Region Sales. Not bad for an independent.

Clyne describes ¡Americano! as “our best work as the Peacemakers, everything I wanted it to be.” Written primarily while Clyne was in Mexico, the album’s lyrical imagery is heavily influenced by Clyne’s adventures south of the border—like describing his second home as a third-world cantina in “Your Name on a Grain of Rice,” or being down in Mexico on the Fourth of July in “Switchblade.”

In Mexico, Clyne may have appeared to some locals no more than a gringo looking for trouble, but in reality he was looking for inspiration. “I like to go into some kind of netherworld for clarity, for mystery and for experience,” Clyne says of his songwriting process, noting that he wrote Sonoran Hope & Madness, the band’s third album, primarily roaming in the Sonora Desert of southern Arizona.

“I wanted a fresh perspective,” he says, “of what it meant to be a citizen of America, and use that isolation from my home country also to examine the perspective for myself as a man, a father and a husband. Often the disconnection from those things can give me a better perspective on what they really mean.”

Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers play The Other Side on Sunday, Oct. 3. Tickets cost $10/$12, available at the door.

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