August 2018

Music

BORDER BEATS (Local CDs)

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns


‘Viva Big Bend’ Music Festival — Texas Music Magazine hosts the 6th annual music festival and conference Thursday through Sunday, July 26-29, in Marfa, Alpine, Fort Davis and Marathon. More than 50 music acts from across the country, representing a variety of styles including alternative, Americana, folk, Latin, pop and rock, will be showcased in several venues. Information on Facebook at Viva Big Bend.
  Tickets: $48 ($103 VIP) available in advance at vivabigbend.com. Tickets limited; price may increase after original tickets sell out.

Speaking Rock Entertainment Center — 122 S. Pueblo Rd. Age 18 and older welcome. Mariachi music featured 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Check website for schedule of tribute bands. Admission is usually free. Information: 860-7777, speakingrock.com or on Facebook.
• Country singer Valerie Ponzio returns to her hometown to perform at 8 p.m. Friday, July 27.
• Gen X Summer Tour is 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, with Buckcherry, P.O.D., Lit and Alien Ant Farm. All ages event.

Alfresco! Fridays — The 16th season of free outdoor summer concerts are 6 p.m. Fridays, through Aug. 24, at Convention Center Plaza. Presented by ElPasoLive.com and sponsored by FirstLight Federal Credit Union. No outside food or beverages, or pets allowed. Information: 534-0600, alfrescofridays.com or on Facebook.
July 27: Ooh La La (classic disco)
Aug. 3: Sangre Gitana (rumba, flamenco)
Aug. 10: Fungi Mungle (70s funk, rock)
Aug. 17: Sha-vonne (pop, R&B, rock)
Aug. 24: Radio La Chusma (Latin reggae).

Parks & Recreation Summer Concert — El Paso Parks and Recreation presents the free outdoor music concert 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, July 27, at San Jacinto Plaza Downtown, featuring The Mixx. No alcohol or glass-bottled beverages permitted. Food vendors and activities for kids offered. Information, updates: 212-0092 or elpasotexas.gov/parks.

Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino — 1200 Futurity Dr. (at Sunland Park Drive), Sunland Park, N.M. No cover. Information: (575) 874-5200 or Sunland-Park.com/entertainment.
  Free live music is 9 to 11 p.m. Fridays, featuring Latin and regional music; and Saturdays featuring rock and pop variety. Mariachi music is 5 p.m. Sundays.
  Noche de Sonora is 9 p.m. to a.m. Friday, Aug. 17, featuring border bands Mi Barrio Colombiano, La Imperial Sonora, and La Skandalosa Sonora Xtrema.
  Tribute bands:
• Saturday, July 28: Wanted (Bon Jovi Tribute).
• Saturday, Aug. 11: Strange Days (The Doors Tribute).
• Friday, Aug. 31, Las Musas (Alejandra Guzman and Gloria Trevi Tribute).

Tailgate 2018 — The annual outdoor concert series in Alamogordo, N.M., raises funds for the Flickinger Center. Concerts begin at 8 p.m. on various Saturdays through Aug. 25, in the upper parking lot at the New Mexico Museum of Space History, 3198 State Road 200l. Patrons should bring their own food, lawn chair and beverages. Gates open 6:45 to 7:45 p.m. Season spaces for six shows available (often sellout early). Information: (575) 437-2202. Online reservations at flickingercenter.com.
  Single event tickets available for $45 per vehicle. Walk up tickets are $10 ($15 couples).
July 28: Hard Road Trio (roots and bluegrass)
Aug. 11: Remember Then (’50s and ’60s)
Aug. 25: Bobcats (jazz and blues).

Music in the Park — The Las Cruces summer concert series is 7 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 26 at Young Park, 1905 E. Nevada, unless otherwise listed. No pets allowed. Schedule subject to change; no performance July 2. Admission is free. Information: (575) 541-2550 or las-cruces.org.
July 29: Latin Funktion Project (Latin jazz, funk, rock and Ray Anthony & Powerslyde (jazz, funk, rock).
Aug. 5: Remember Then … A Class Act (oldies) and Soul Shine (rock, folk, soul, country).
Aug. 12: Tequila Nights (variety) and Johnny Hernandez Band (variety).
Aug. 19: Reviva (original ska, reggae, world music) and Bubba Kush Band (classic rock).
Aug. 26: C. J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band (zydeco) and Joseph General Band (reggae).

State Line Music Series — El Pasoans Fighting Hunger and State Line Restaurant, 1222 Sunland Park Drive presents the Rudolph Chevrolet-Honda-Mazda-VW outdoor concert series 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays. Admission is free; age 21 and older welcome. All customers asked to bring non-perishable food donation or monetary donation for El Pasoans Fighting Hunger. Information: 581-3371, WTxFoodBank.org or on Facebook at The State Line Bar-B-Q.
Aug. 1: Special guest TBA
Aug. 8: Jake Worthington
Aug. 15: Cameran Nelson
Aug. 22: To be announced.

Howling Coyote Open Mic — The open mic event is 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3, at Center for Spiritual Living, 575 N. Main, on Las Cruces Downtown Main Street, following the monthly Downtown Arts Ramble. Doors open for jam session at 6 p.m.; numbers drawn for performance order at 6:30 p.m. The community event is on the first Friday of the month. Free admission to participants and audience. Information: bobandmelody@sbcglobal.net.
  The “Howling Coyote,” now in its 13th year, is open to acoustic musicians, poets, storytellers, and singer/songwriters for material that is family friendly. Performances should be 5 to 10 minutes long. Evening limited to 15 performers.

La Parada — The monthly grassroots event celebrating local culture and lifestyles is 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, Aug. 3, at San Carlos Building, 501 Texas. Art market open all night. Cover: $5 ($10 under 21). Information: 351-6023 or on Facebook at laparadaep.
  This month’s event features the sounds of by of Meganoke x GOLDNGLK,Dizz Brew, the Swell Kids, Orange Anima and Michael Djphame Rhodes, with live art by Woar2.

‘A Night In The 40’s’ — Paso Del Norte Big Band, a 17-piece group, hosts 1940s style dancing and music 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12, at the Woman’s Club of El Paso, 1400 N. Mesa. All ages welcome; BYOB, food and snacks. Door prizes and raffle offered; participants are encouraged to wear 1940’s theme attire. Admission: $15. Information: 532-2043, 203-7292, music@pdnbigband.com or on Facebook at PDNbigband.

Divided Heaven — The LA rock band performs 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15, at Art Obscura Gallery, 3206 Harrelson, in Las Cruces, with local opening acts Curio Klatch and The Southwest Orchestra. Information: (575) 494-7256.

The Dry River — 9910 Montana. Performances begin at 9 p.m., unless otherwise listed. Arrive early for food and drinks before the show. Admission is free to all listed live music events. Information: 892-2146, thedryriver.com or on Facebook.
• Saturday, July 28: Sorry About Your Sister.
• Friday, Aug. 3: Texas musician Sam Barlow.
• Thursday, Sept. 6: John Glenn Experiment.


Also

Zin Valle Free Music Sundays — Zin Valle vineyard, 7315 Hwy 28 in Canutillo (3/4 mile north of FM 259), hosts free live music 1 to 4 p.m. on selected Sundays. Guests may also enjoy wine tastings. Bring a picnic. Information: 877-4544 or zinvalle.com.
July 29: Perfect on Paper
Aug. 5: April Ticket
Aug. 19: James Springer
Sept. 2: Dusty Low

Echoes in the Park — Drumming Enthusiasts of El Paso (DEEP) hosts the open drumming circle, now in its 11th year, 7 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 13 at Upper Tom Lea Park on Rim Road. Bring your own percussion. Experienced musicians of acoustic instruments welcome. Participation is free. Information: 491-3476 or on Facebook.

Thursday Night Jams — The Rio Grande Theatre, 211 N. Main Street in Las Cruces, presents live music at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, showcasing all varieties of music. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Admission: $5 (cash only) Information: (575) 541-2290, riograndetheatre.org or on Facebook.

Truth or Consequences Brewing Co. — 410 N. Broadway. The venue host live music acts most weekends. Shows begin at 7 p.m., unless listed otherwise. No cover. Information: (575) 297-0289, torc.beer, or on Facebook.
• Saturday, Aug. 4: Southern Blend Band (country), 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Aug. 5: Paper Moon Shiners (vintage styles)
• Thursday, Aug. 9: Clay Parker and Jodi James (folk)
• Friday, Aug. 10: Reverb Roadkill (psychedelic sci-fi cowpunk)
• Saturday, Aug. 11: Guitar Slim with special guest Pat Dutton (blues).
• Thursday, Aug. 16: Jen Exten (neo-folk).
• Saturday, Aug. 18: Mackie Redd and The Band (country, bluegrass), 7:30 p.m.

Music on the Lawn — The Fountains at Farah Promenade Amphitheater, 8889 Gateway West, hosts free music events at sundown Saturdays, during the summer months. Information, schedule: 225-3600, fountainsatfarah.com or on Facebook.

Ardovino’s Live Music — Ardovino’s Desert Crossing, One Ardovino Dr. in Sunland Park, hosts live music at 7:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. Information: (575) 589-0653.

Fandango at Carambola Community Music — The monthly gathering is 6 to 9 p.m. the first Thursday of the month at Carambola Community Music, 200 N. Ochoa. Guests are welcome to bring instruments, voices, dancing feet and a friend. Instruments and dancing shoes for folks to try. A zapateado lesson with Jazmin Cancio Lucio is 7 p.m. Information: (773) 613-9303 or mariaannemccullough@gmail.com.

Open Mic Night — The Pizza Joint, 7000 Westwind, hosts open mic events 8 p.m. to midnight the last Saturday of the month, with music, comedy and poetry. Participation is free; pizza and beer available for purchase. All ages welcome. Information: 307-7599, the-pizza-joint.com or on Facebook at ThePizzaJoint.

Sunset Soundtracks — El Cosmico vintage trailer lodge, 802 S. Highland in Marfa, Texas, presents free live music events on selected evenings. Events begin at 9 p.m. Information: (432) 729-1950 or elcosmico.com.
• Saturday, July 28: Pearl Charles.
• Friday, Aug. 17: Mountebank (Austin rock band)
• Thursday, Oct. 18: Pleasures (Florida “dark groove and alien progressive”)

Folk Fury — KTEP, 88.5 FM, features three hours of acoustic and folk music — with an emphasis on recordings by local musicians and occasional live appearances by them — from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturdays. Hosts are Dan Alloway and Gregg Carthy. Requests: 747-5153.


 

Border Beats


Recently added to the El Paso playlist:

‘Wheel Spit Dog’ — El Paso poet/folk singer Gene Keller wrapped up his 70-plus years of wisdom and reflection as a gift to listeners in this new CD of 15 songs. If you’re wondering about the title, you won’t find out until track 14, but it’s well worth the wait. Keller has fought through struggles of his own blues to find joy in the details of life, accepting his flaws as well as anyone else’s along the way.  The easiest way to get a copy is to email him at streetoftrees@gmail.com.

“Slow Town” — El Paso progressive rock band FrenZi’s latest singer was released Feb. 28 on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud and Google Play. Chantal, Audrey and Dario, all age 14 to 16, began to play at local venues in El Paso and since November 2014 have played more than 100 shows in United States and Mexico. Last November, FrenZi performed in Mexico City at the international festival FILIJ 2016. Find their music on frenzirockband.com or on Facebook.

‘Day After Everything’ — El Paso band Villains Kiss has just released their latest single. The band formed in 2011, consisting of David Delgado on synth, vocals, and production, Tomas Tinajero on drums, Rene Baza on bass and
Andres Paredes on guitar. The band describes their music as “synth pop, industrial overtones teamed up with organic dance beats and energy-driven guitar, topped with dreamy-melodic vocals.” To find this song or more of their music, visit their website at villainskiss.com or look for them on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

‘AuraNGreen’ — El Paso musician Nancy Lorenza Green’s latest solo CD features her on Indian, Native American, and Ocarina flutes combined with chimes, bells and rain stick, and was inspired by children with special needs and elderly people. A three-minute preview of the CD can be heard, accompanied by landscape visuals, on YouTube.


The Rose of Roscrae: A Ballad of the West (Frontera Records) — Tom Russell moved to El Paso nearly 20 years ago, but aside from the occasional concert here at best once a year or two, he’s off the radar of local music lovers. Unless they happen to be fans of folk/Americana or just brilliant songwriting in general. And while Russell maintains a home base in the Upper Valley, most of the time he’s performing across the United States and Europe.
  Russell’s first release after his move to El Paso was “The Man from God Knows Where,” a folk opera based on his own Irish/Norwegian roots, spanning the times of his immigrant ancestors to his own youth in California and finally settling in the Southwest. Many of his later works have drawn inspiration from his new home, most notably his “Borderland” album.
  During the past two decades, Russell had also been at work on his magnum opus, “The Rose of Roscrae,” a 2-disc, 52-track folk opera that also spans the late 19th and early 20th century. The story centers on Johnny Dutton, an Irish immigrant turned cowboy outlaw, and his lifelong love interest, Rose Malloy. Along the way we meet a cast of characters including an evangelistic marshal who chases Dutton, now known as Johnny Behind-the-Deuce, across North America; and even Father Damien, the real-life priest who ministered to the leper colony on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.
  The cast of musicians behind this masterpiece is even more impressive. Besides Russell, whose gritty voice captures the hard-tempered passion of the cowboy protagonist, the album features Maura O’Connell as Rose Malloy and dozens of others, including Joe Ely, Dave Olney, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Gretchen Peters, Eliza Gilkyson, Jimmy LaFave, Augie Meyers, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Ian Tyson. There are recorded pieces from Johnny Cash, Lead Belly, John Trudell, Walt Whitman and Tex Ritter, and accompanying music by the Norwegian Wind Ensemble and Swiss Yodel Choir of Bern.
  It also would take as many words to describe the genres of music represented in “The Rose of Roscrae,” from haunting Celtic instrumentals to raucous cowboy songs to gospel to classic Americana and blues. The more you try to describe this work, the more you realize it’s in a class by itself.
  The one warning that should come with the album: It’s not easy listening. My recommendation would be to bring the album along on your next long driving trip through the desert, and let it take you on its own journey.
  You can find “The Rose of Roscrae” at fronterarecords.com, as well as its companion offering, an 82-page program guide with libretto.
  You can also hear some of the music live May 17 at Tricky Falls, where Russell will make one his rare El Paso concerts.

  — Randy Limbird

‘El Paso’ by David Keenan — A video of Irish singer/songwriter David Keenan performing a song about El Paso recently went viral, but it isn’t the El Paso you would expect.
  “El Paso is the nickname given to my home town of Dundalk as it is situated on the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic,” Keenan explained.
  In addition to being a viral hit, Keenan’s “El Paso” will be on the soundtrack of the Texas-made indie Western, “Brothers James: Retribution,” about a pair of brothers who take on the persona of the infamous Frank and Jesse James.
  This song, although obviously written about the Irish community, could have a similar appeal to area residents, and Keenan’s beautifully folky voice is enough to appeal to people anywhere.
  A video of Keenan performing the song is on YouTube under “David Keenan - El Paso (Live for The Sunday Sessions)” or find the original viral video on YouTube under “Irish Guy (David Keenan) Singing in Taxi.”

  — Lisa Kay Tate



Feel Your Love,” (Beyond Creativity). music video by Ellen M. Wilson. After the global success of vocalist Ellen Wilson’s 2012 album, “Destiny,” Wilson and her band’s live performances were supported by a CAP Grant from MCAD and TCA. She recently moved from El Paso due to a PCS (permanent change of station) move, but she and her producer/keyboardist T.J. Brown begin working on a second album when they came up with a new idea for an electronic pop single and music video. The song, “Feel Your Love,” is about “love across the miles” specifically geared toward military couples separated by wartime. Brown served as director, producer and editor for the project, as well as lending his voice to the song.
  Wilson, a military spouse, knows what it is like for a wife enduring separation from her husband during deployments.
  The video’s lead is played by Darrin Domko, a retired 1st Sgt.
  Whether or not listener come from a military background, it will be hard to make it through this video without both tearing up and feeling appreciation for not only the sacrifices of the those in the military, but of their families as well. Like Wilson’s past video, it also highlights the beauty of the El Paso landscape, but also places Fort Bliss in the spotlight.
  The song itself features Wilson’s signature jazzy, pop sound recognizable to fans of her past work.
  A video and single release party is 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, May 31, at Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss, with video showing at 8, 9 and 10 p.m. and a live performance by Wilson.
  “Feel You Love” is available on iTunes and Amazon.

  — Lisa Kay Tate


“Variations” by Peter Kolar — A product of the Midwest, Peter Kolar has an impressive background in sacred music that includes both a career with a leading publisher of Catholic music and service as church music director and liturgical consultant. Kolar, who moved to El Paso in 2005 after marrying a native of the city, is also director of the El Paso Diocesan Choir.
  His new CD “Variations” showcases his own performing skills as a pianist, arranger of classic hymns and his own original works.
  Much of the music will be familiar to many lovers of classical and sacred music, but each track offers Kolar’s own stylings and arrangements. For example, his “Variations on Hymn to Joy” starts off with a very deliberate, somber recital of the classic choral finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, then moves into different moods and styles.
  Nearly all the CD features Kolar as solo pianist, his original composition of “Piece in A Major for Piano and Three Woodwinds” serves as a counterpoint for the rest of the album, not only because of the other instruments but also for its lighter tone.
  Kolar, who moved to El Paso in 2005 after marrying a native of the city, recorded the CD in collaboration with local music producer and jazz musician Billy Townes. For more information on the CD, go to wlpmusic.com. It’s also available through iTunes and amazon.com.
       — Randy Limbird


“Destiny,” Ellen Wilson — El Paso vocalist/songwriter Ellen Wilson’s newest offering is another example of her ability to mesh segments of faith and inspiration with clean, clear vocals and flowing melody.
  More pop/rock-infused than her earlier disc, “Songs of Ascent,” Wilson’s sound is still very familiar.
  The album starts out strong with the world-uniting invitation, “Someday,” and it continues to flow smoothly throughout. A standout for me was “For You,” featuring a rock anthem-inspired intro and motivating rhythm. These two selections alone are worth giving the CD a listen, but that’s not to say Wilson doesn’t deliver a satisfying musical experience altogether. This is one of those rare albums with no “skip over” songs or low points.
  Although “Destiny” demonstrates and Wilson’s ability to experiment and evolve as a musician, fans of her work won’t be disappointed with the results. Likewise, those just discovering her music should find this album enjoyable enough to want to delve back into her earlier work.
  “Destiny” is simply a beautiful listen from beginning to end, and it’s refreshing to see a local talent who can not only grow as a performer, but also remain true to herself in the process.
        — Lisa Kay Tate


Cardo and Friends — Richard Schwartz (Cardo) is a native El Pasoan whose music career crisscrossed the country and world before he returned to his hometown. As a concert promoter, he worked with such big names as Rush, Heart and the Eagles, establishing long-term friendships with the best in the music business.
  Those connections are reflected in Cardo’s own singer-songwriter album “Cardo and Friends.” It’s a labor of love that draws from his own storytelling style and a mix of musical influences that span bluegrass to rock.
  The 15 tracks mostly share an introspective tone of someone looking back at life and trying to make sense of both past and present. Even when he sings of “Chasin’ the Future,” it’s the future of someone who is trying “to make a deal with time.”
  The ballads are sometimes bleak, such as “It Could Happen to Anyone” that references violence on “an afternoon in Juarez, across the Rio Grande.” A cross-country driver faces “Christmas Eve Alone.” He wrestles with trying to keep “faith, hope and love” in a “World Gone Wrong.”
  The big surprises of this album are the credits. David Kersenbaum (producer, mixer and backing vocals) is a legendary music executive and producer with 75 gold and platinum records on his resume, having worked with the likes of Tracy Chapman, Janet Jackson, Bryan Adams, Duran Duran and Tori Amos. Mitch Perry (associate producer, musical director, backing vocals, electric and acoustic guitars) is a guitarist whose work with such stars as Edgar Winters, Graham Nash and Cher go back three decades. John Payne (backing vocals, engineering) is best known as vocalist and bassist for Asia. Those are just some of the musical who’s who members listed on the album jacket, along with such well-known local musicians as Chris Sanders and Steve Smith.
  For more information, go to cardoandfriends.com.
       — Randy Limbird


Dan Lambert The Double Drum Trio (Coordinate Records) — Dan Lambert is a rare breed in El Paso, a musician who actually makes his living primarily as a performer (although he also does private lessons), and one who has been doing so for many years. He typically is found playing at casual but high-quality eateries such as the Magic Pan or Ripe, sometimes as a solo guitarist and sometimes with whatever ensemble he's currently assembled.
  Dan is also a true musician in that he's always pursuing some new creative aspect of his art. He's best known as a finger-style guitarist and composer of music that a melting pot of various genres, such as jazz, blues, pop and world music. About 10 or 12 years ago he was on a recording streak, producing a series of CDs that included “The Clearing,” “Melodies/Improvisations,” “Plaids” and “The Blue Hand.” Then he stayed out of the studio for nearly a decade.
  He returned in style this year, bringing his newfound oud, sarod and ruan as well as his familiar guitar and accompanied by percussionists Ricardo Amaya and Erik Hickerson to Tornillo's Sonic Ranch. Hidden among pecan orchards at the southeast edge of El Paso County, Sonic Ranch advertises itself as “the largest Residential Recording Studio complex in the world.”
  The result is “Dan Lambert The Double Drum Trio,” a collection of Dan's original compositions that spans jazz and Middle Eastern styles. He'll officially release the CD with a dinner show Jan. 20 at the Magic Pan. His music also will be featured Jan. 29 as part of the local music mix for Dance Alive's Belly Dance Extravaganza at the Chamizal.
  Pick up a copy at Collectibles, White’s Music Box, All That Music or Ripe.


‘Blood and Candle Smoke’ by Tom Russell (Shout Factory). Russell is another example of El Paso extreme talent, but in this case El Paso can’t take credit for his birth. It took Russell about 50 years to find his way here, making the Upper Valley his home base while touring around the world. Russell is a folk/country singer-songwriter best known for ballads such as “Outbound Plane” and “Gallo del Cielo” that were made into hits by other singers . His El Paso years have been particularly productive — his critically acclaimed folk cycle CD, “The Man from God Knows Where” came out in 1999 and his latest, “Blood and Candle Smoke” is the 10th album during the past 10 years. In this CD, his first set of original songs under the Shout label, Russell draws from some of his early years growing up in the turbulent 1960s “East of Woodstock, West of Viet Nam,” studying criminology and teaching in Africa, as well as the influences of living on the border. Russell fans can catch some of these songs in person Nov. 6 and 7, when he performs in Silver City and Las Cruces.
— Randy Limbird  

“Kivvunin,” Larry Bach. El Paso Rabbi Larry Bach’s new CD, translated as “directions” or “intentions,” is aptly named, as it carries a definite directive motive. The two most notable songs book-end the CD, including the bilingual, folksy opening track “Ki Eshm’ra Shabbat,” that leads off with Bach’s Dylan-inspired harmonica and lyrics reflecting the importance of the Shabbat (Sabbath). Most of the songs that follow have a consistent, easy-sounding rhythm, serving as mini-sermons based on Hebrew text and common sense values that could we well-heed by persons of all faiths, especially Jewish listeners and Christians who haven’t forgotten the importance of the Old Testament teachings.
  One of the catchier songs is “Lullaby,” an English arrangement by Bach of a Hebrew-language song. The repetitive nature-inspired lyrics and flowing beat make it a nice sing-a-long for both youth and adults.
  He saves his most personal work, however, for last in “Bob Dylan Came to Town.” In Bach’s reimagining of “The Night Hank Williams Came to Town,” his long-time music idol performs in concert a short distance from his home...on Erev Pesach, a sacred time that ushers in the Passover. Bach’s kind voice and clean guitar complements each other, and if this CD’s “intention” was to give to give the listener a sense of calm, it certainly did the trick.
 
-- Lisa Kay Tate


“Songs of Ascent,” Ellen M. Wilson. Wilson’s collection of Hebrew and English language songs, many inspired by verses from the Psalms and other books, sounds as home in the Southwest as it would in the mountainous Middle East. The easy-going instrumentals range from solemn piano and flute to jazzier saxophone, all accompanied by Wilson’s clear, silky voice (with accompaniment by guest vocalist Cantor Robbie Sherwin) to give an ethereal appeal. It would be hard not to sit though flowing melodies such as “Shir Chadash (A New Song)” or the closer “Oseah Shalom (Grant Peace)” and not feel at peace. It would be too easy to compare Wilson’s sound to that of the Celtic-based vocalists such as Enya or Loreena McKennitt, but Wilson adds a touch of the desert and her own, rich Jewish heritage to the mix giving “Songs of Ascent” both regional and global appeal.

-- “Thank You,” George Arriola. (Vyking Recordings). This local award-winning singer and composer has been celebrated for instrumental, vocal and writing capability. He new vocal CD is a precursor to his soon-to-be-released progressive instrumental rock CD “All I Wanna Do.” This laidback (albeit brief) EP reminiscent of the 1970s and 1980s soft rock stylings. “For Love” in particular flows like a romantic walk on the beach. None of the songs struck me as stand-outs, but considering what we are listening to is all George, the musical ability is pretty darn impressive.

-- Glenn Leffler, “Acoustic Journey,” Adventures in Solo Guitar.” Leffler’s thoughtful nature and faith are evident selections from the flowing opener, “Pandora’s Box” to the slightly perkier “Pop’s Rag.” The songs are consistent and clean throughout. There are no surprises on this album, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, making this a good choice for the office or early morning back porch lounging.

-- La Guitarra presents Mario Otero, “Down at the Pass.” Otero has a great way of combining the gritty edge of the border with the disciplined sound of classical guitar. The clever narrative at throughout is a suitable tribute to Robert Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi” Trilogy, followed by a series of regionally inspired tunes like the grito-infused “Bandito Concierto” and the heart-breaking bilingual lament of “The Children of Juarez.” Although, honestly, I prefer the instrumentals on this offering, especially the brief “La Vienta” reunion featuring Otero and Stefan Schyga.

-- Stefan Schyga -- “A Winter Romance.” It has been far too long since Schyga has released a solo CD, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Packed with 15 instrumental flamenco-inspired tracks, standouts include the jazzy, mystical “Niko” (joined by Otero) the snaky rhythms of “Bossamenco” and the exotic, percussion-fused “Streets of Marrakech.”

-- Lisa Kay Tate

 

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