Gitkin sold guitars. To be precise, he re-branded, sold and traded knock-off Gibsons. A lone, travelling salesman, he toted his counterfeit wares to guitar stores and music emporiums. His trade took him to most corners of the USA, passing through big, smoggy cities and nowheresville small towns. His nights were spent at not-so-salubrious motels. It was at those nocturnal stop-offs that he’d often cross paths with newcomers to the States. His fellow travellers were mostly immigrants, newly-arrived, from places like Ethiopia, Mexico, Indonesia.
Or at least, that’s the story as Brian J Gitkin has been able to piece it together. This album, ‘5 Star Motel’, is by a different Gitkin, an ode to the one described above. Or to put it another way, this is the younger Gitkin’s homage to his elder relative: the elusive, guitar salesman uncle he never met. A steady drip of anecdotes have construed an image of his relation’s itinerant, huckster lifestyle. Finding a cassette of his recordings, it spoke of the effect of those encounters: lo-fi and scratchy, the music leaped seamlessly, in difficult to discern ways, between different far-flung styles.
On ‘5 Star Motel’, that younger Gitkin (henceforth referred to simply as Gitkin) has sought to expand the philosophy he encountered on that tape. The guitar is common thread, the raft to navigate a sun-dappled stream of ideas. It’s an embrace of cultures where folkloric stringed instruments still rule, or where they’ve led to a more recent embrace of the electric guitar. He traces the loose, meandering paths which join them together.
It’s about America, the world outside its borders, and the inscrutable, inevitable dialogue that exists between them. Take ‘Cancion Del Rey’, where the sound of Peruvian chicha – steady-moving, alluring, and lyrical – winds its way through Gitkin’s fuzz-filtered licks, and the rhythm underpinning it. Or ‘Yama’, where Middle Eastern influences echo out of grooving, cyclical riffs. Touching on the distinctive tones of Tuareg music and the Sahara, too, ‘Grand Street Feast’ charts a sand-dusted, melodic misadventure.