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Peoria Unlikely Home For New Flamenco Band 'Tambora'

Cindy Youngren and Tom Hopwood of Tambora
Cindy Youngren and Tom Hopwood of Tambora.

Peoria may not seem fertile ground for birthing a Flamenco band. But a side jam during the making of a compilation CD among area musicians grew into one of Peoria’s newest outfits.

Cindy Youngren of Hoosier Daddy and the bluesy Southside Cindy & Sliptones said Tambora grew out of an improv session between recordings with "Stinky Pete" guitarist Tom Hopwood. He had organized the benefit CD for a friend severely injured in a motorcycle accident to include over 20 Peoria-area musicians.

Youngren said during the side jam, Hopwood was playing riffs and chord progressions he had been hanging onto -- and she thought it natural to add her lyrics and melodies.

“He seemed to like what I was doing to that,” said Youngren. “So, we kept going and ended up making a whole CD, adding that Hopwood was originally inspired by Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns as well as surf master guitarist Dick Dale."

That 6-song recording features his powerful guitar and Youngren’s equally powerful vocals many know from her previous blues and roots bands. She declined to dive into the lyrical content of the catchy second track “No Tengo Tiempo,” hinting some could take it as a veiled criticism.

When we make any kind of connection We’ll make it happen forever If you want to go fast, go alone, my friend But if you want to go far, we’ll go together. All the roads are paved with good intentions Not enough to get you what you wish Yo no tengo tiempo para esto, I don’t have time for this. “No Tengo Tiempo” – by Tambora

Youngren said her lyrics usually borrow from the past, but mostly she said she literally sat and listened to Hopwood’s songs while added thematic ideas.

“In one case, I had to get a friend of mine to make sure I was translating into Spanish correctly. But I was literally Skyping back and forth. ‘How do you say this? How do you say that?’ A friend of mine from Ecuador was translating,” said Youngren of the song “Mi Hermano.”

Mi hermano y yo siempre en problemas y haciendo lo mal volviendo locos a mama y papa Andando con la banda equivocada y tocando la musica muy alto Mi hermano y yo Cuando eres un Jett, eres un Jett desde tu primer cigarillo hasta tu ultimo dia de vida. siempre en problemas y haciendo lo mal volviendo locos a mama y papa Andando con la banda equivocada y tocando la musica muy alto. La musica muy alto. “Mi Hermano” – by Tambora

“As far as the poetic part, of course, it's easier for me to write in English. But I've found that Spanish really doesn't have any issues with the rhyming. And maybe it's because so many of the words and vowels flow in a rhyme … and they feel rhythmic all by themselves,” said Youngren.

She said the inspiration for “Mi Hermano” came from couple of musician friends who were brother and sister who were talking about listening to their music loudly.

“I love, love, love the lyrics to this one,” exclaimed Youngren. “Especially in the second verse. I don't know if anybody will notice the touch of 'West Side Story' … about the Jets … because that was the one issue my friend had in Ecuador. When I asked him to translate, ‘When you're a jet, you're a jet all the way.’

She said it connected to band class in high school when she said she was “running with guitarists and bass players.”

“And we were committed to what we were doing, and laughing about, ‘Oh, yeah, you would practice 24 hours a day? Well, yeah, when you're a jet, you're a jet all the way, you know. And we used to just say that to each other. So, I was kind of dying to use that line. And then when I got to use it in Spanish, I didn't feel like I was stealing,” she laughed.

Youngren paused a bit to gather her thoughts when asked if Hopwood’s music allows her to say something lyrically in a way blues songs she’s known for can't?

“I don't think any genre keeps you from saying what you want to say. But I think if you picture yourself in a different setting, you feel rhythms behind it that lift you up. I think there are times where the strumming and the energy of it really pushes your meanings forward. Tom can really play this guitar,” she said of Hopwood, adding that Chris Dipiazza on hand drums and timbale added to the tasty sound, as did Peoria’s ubiquitous bassist Tim Brickner, and fellow bassist Bret Johnson and on bass on “No Tengo Tiempo.”

Youngren is known to many for her many years fronting the blues-based Southside Cindy & the Sliptones and more recently the rootsy Hoosier Daddy. She says dipping her toes into Latin music has energized her but has also been a challenge she’s looking forward to diving into the music and feels the group would be even more energized when they can play live again.

“Let me put it this way. It's stifling to an artist my age who has really welcomed the contributions of the folks listening to us live … giving us feedback. I want to play it out. And I want to see people's faces and see if they dance and see if they have joy from it,” said Youngren.

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Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.