Rock n' Roll Pony is the self-produced second album from Californian recording artist Gina Villalobos.
Gina Villalobos is often likened to Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams, but she is probably even closer in style to her contemporaries like Tift Merritt, Shannon McNally, Kathleen Edwards and in particular Sheryl Crow at her most rockin' (and before Crow went all MOR on us). Of these artists, Villalobos is probably the least successful and well known, as evidenced by the fact that I'm the first person to write a review here. But for such a talented songwriter and performer this shouldn't neccesarily be so - and I'd hasten to add that it is probably due to a lack of luck or opportunities rather than any shortcomings in her ability. Or, she might enjoy relative anonymity. Either way, she deserves to be heard by more people.
The first thing you notice about Rock n' Roll Pony is that it sounds damn cool. This is music made for driving in wide open spaces, with songs that conjure up images of dusty desert highways, deserted gas stations, jukeboxes, cheap cold beer, and broken hearts. Ironically, this album has probably done better in Britain than America, where this sort of Americana/alt. country music is very well recieved.
My first exposure to Villalobos was catching a snippet of her single 'What I'd Give' on a local New Zealand music video channel and I was immediately drawn in by it's catchy, escalating chorus. Needing to hear more, I quickly snapped up a copy of Rock n' Roll Pony and have been impressed ever since. Gina Villalobos' raw vocals are ideally suited to this material, and it takes no convincing at all that these songs are drawn from life experience. Tracks like the hard-driving 'Not Enough' and 'Fooling Around' are belted-out with seemingly consumate ease.
My only small criticism of Rock n' Roll Pony is that the vast majority of the album is mid to uptempo rockers, and at times I find myself waiting for a show-stopping ballad or two. But hey, that's just me and my tastes, and in any case, what Gina Villalobos does, she does very well indeed.
Rock n' Roll Pony is heartbroken, kick-ass rock n' roll and it's well worth seeking out.