Sindicato – Union made
It started out simply enough: Frank Dean, who runs a guitar shop called Ballantine Guitar Company, decided to record a collection of songs he’d written for a CD. “Most of that disc was just three guys standing around a microphone,” Dean recalls of recording Appalachian Pipeline, Sindacato’s debut on its own Union Records label. “We didn’t have any plans to be a band.”
The three guys standing around the microphone were Dean, multi-instrumentalist Jason Roller and bassist Gary Wasson. Roller is no longer with Sindacato, but the band’s membership has broadened to include three new players: Ralph Jeffers (mandolin), John Sheets (accordion) and Carl LoSasso (percussion). Each has a peculiar tale to tell about joining the lineup.
“When Carl called, he said he’d been listening to the disc for a couple of months,” Dean recalls of his percussionist, who responded to an ad in the paper but had noticed the absence of drums on Appalachian Pipeline. “He said he only had one question: ‘What do you guys need a drummer for?’ I told him he wasn’t making a very good case for himself.”
So what was the clincher in hiring him? “We asked everybody one question,” Dean said. “Who’s the best drummer, Levon Helm or Neal Peart? Carl was the only one to say Levon Helm.”
Meanwhile, Sheets was invited to play accordion after Dean saw him sporting one in a publicity shot for another band they liked. “John said he’d love to be in the band but he didn’t know how to play the accordion,” said Dean. “But he said he’d learn if he could be in the band.”
Similarly, Jeffers joined to play mandolin even though he wasn’t a mandolin player. “They just believed in the vision of the band and wanted to be a part of it,” Dean said.
Some of the band’s more memorable live gigs so far have been opening-act slots for the likes of George Jones, Emmylou Harris — and Todd Rundgren. “To give you an idea of the difference, Emmylou went five minutes over into our time for a sound check and apologized. Todd was pissed that we wanted one,” Dean said.
True to its title, Appalachian Pipeline features an old-timey, mountain-music sound that seems dislocated in Central Indiana. Lately, the band’s sound has been evolving toward a more well-rounded feel of traditional country. The songs for the band’s upcoming disc (as yet untitled but tentatively set for a fall release) have a more fleshed-out feel, as do the songs off the first disc when they’re performed live by the current lineup. The band members are now quite familiar with each other and the music they’ll put on the next disc, which makes the search for a more perfect Sindacato — which translates to mean “union” — seem close at hand.