Introducing… Juan Cirerol, Mexico’s Johnny Cash

Several years back when I was living in Los Angeles, a buddy of mine called me and said, “Hey, I’m coming down to LA with two Mexican kids and a couple of my San Francisco boys. They’re on tour—can you put us up for a night or two?” I said, “Sure.” And so I waited… and waited… and waited. Finally, this group of hardcore, experimental rockers rolled into town in a van at 5:30am and wanted breakfast. As it turned out, the two Mexican kids were in a hardcore group and one of them, Juan Cirerol, was a real cut-up.

“I speak English,” said Cirerol when I first spoke to him. “Es okay, es okay… give her another Quaalude,” Cirerol would say, impersonating Tony Montana’s English. “Choot dat pizza chit.”

This instantly endeared Cirerol to me, for I believe that “Scarface” is a national comedic treasure, and anyone who can see the humor in that film is alright by me. If we had to communicate through the dialogue of Tony Montana, then that was simply the way it had to be.

Several years later, this very same buddy moved to New York City and called me. “Remember Juan Cirerol, that Mexican kid that crashed at your place,” he said. “Well, he’s now the Mexican Johnny Cash or something and pretty big.” So, on Cinco de Mayo we headed to Salon Hecho on Bowery to watch Cirerol who had arrived, as the place advertised, “directly from Mexico!”

Juan was dressed in a western shirt with a big belt buckle and cowboy boots instead of his previous hardcore incarnation, so when he took the stage with his 12-string guitar I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But I’ll be damned if he didn’t blast the house off its foundations with his guitar, harmonica and voice. It took very little time for those seated to make their way toward the stage and enjoy a little Mexican rockabilly and country blended with Mexican folk music, norteña and cumbia. One can even hear the faint traces of Bob Dylan when Cicerol plays the harmonica.

Currently, Cirerol has a “Singles” EP that has been on rotation on my laptop, and while I have no idea what he’s talking about in Spanish, I can certainly dig the rhythm, the melody and energy that infuses his style. Such was his success that he even played a stage at SXSW in 2012.

Since 2008, Cirerol has put out two albums, “No´ mas sirvo pa´Cantar” and “Ofrenda al Mictlán,” and intends to release his third, “Haciendo Leña,” this November on the label Discos Intolerancia.

Check out the music video for the song “Corrido Chicalo” below and his Soundcloud page to listen to some other tracks.