Burrito after whole enchilada
Success a shock to folk/rocker
By Rege Behe
Frenchy Burrito has a hard time understanding why he's been able to make a living as a musician for 27 years in Pittsburgh. "In a busness dominated by young people, it's bewildering to me that I'm still out here doing this," he said in an interview earlier this week.Not that Burrito is living in mansion, taking limos to concerts or touring the country in chartered jet. The 49-year-old singer/guitarist describes his buget as "shoe string," and the recent release of his self-tilted CD took more than three years to complete. But Burrito has something that many musicians might never achieve: peace of mind. "A lot of people would want more. I'm odd in that way," he said. "The simple things make me happy. I'm not trying to make a million dollars. I have a drive obviously, because it keeps me doing this. I mean, there are easier ways to make money." What makes Burrito happiest playing a type of music not often heard around these parts. He's a folk/rock type of guy who sites Bob Dylan, Loudon Wainwrifgt III and Townes Van Zandt as influences, a storyteller, whose first gigs in Pittsburgh were at now-defunct clubs and coffeehouse such as the Razzberry Rhinoceros, the Portfolio and Loaves and Fishes. "My first paid gig was at the Casbah in Shadyside in '70 or '71," he said. 'I got paid $15 dollars for two sets. About the only thing I remember about it is I took a bus there and then took a cab home. Fifteen dollars went a long way back then."Born in Minneapolis and raised in Chicago, Burrito came to Pittsburgh in 1970, following a coed he met at Northwestern University who had family here. He soon fell in love with the city, and has established himself as a regular performer at local arts festivals during the summer and Beaver, Butler, Erie and Ohio the rest of the year. Opportunities to move elswhere have come his way, but Burrito has resited the lure of seemingly brighter lights."Townes (Van Zandt) took me to Nashville once and tried to help me out," he said. "But I would have had to move there, and I didn't want to do that." Although the singer has released a couple of cassettes during his career, "Frenchy Burrito" marks his first compilation of music of 13 years. recorded with his band the Folk Pistols ("It's a collective of about 15 different musicians because I can't afford to retain a regular band"), the album s a immidiate feel to it, given that it has very few dubs."Everything was done in one pass, one take," Burrito said. "I had a very limited budget. It was real tough to put together. Everybody worked for very minimal amount of money to help get this done. Not that the album suffers in any way because of Burrito's financial limitations. The Cd is an impreeive effort, and could be a calling card for other opertunities if the fates smile his way. Not that Burrito is counting on this recording as being his ticket to the big time. "I've been through the whole routine," he noted. "Warner Brothers called me, Sony called me; I've talked to all of them in one way or another. But to me, just the fact that I'm doing it is satisfying. If something happens that's fine, but I'm happy just the way I am. "I'm like Che Guevara," Burrito added with a laugh. "I come out of the hills, make a little raid fight the rising tide of conformity and head back to the hills." Burrito's CD is available at Borders Books & Music and selected National records Marts. He will appear 9:30 tonight at the Bronzhood Lounge in Robinson. Admision is free.
"Beware of the Jabberwocky Amigo" - Townes Van Zandt
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