September 2015

Music and Comedy

BORDER BEATS (Local CDs)

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns


Alfresco! Fridays — The 2015 season of free outdoor summer concerts are 6 p.m. Fridays through Sept. 18, at Convention Center Plaza. Presented by ElPasoLive.com and sponsored by FirstLight Federal Credit Union. No outside food or beverages, or pets allowed. Information: 534-0633 or alfrescofridays.com.
Aug. 28: Trailer Band (country, rock)
Sept. 4: B Series (rock-steady)
Sept. 11: Prime 80’s Xperience (retro)
Sept. 18: Fungi Mungle (70s).

‘Every Other Tuesday’ — Doña Ana Arts Council hosts a variety of musical performances 6:30 p.m. every other Tuesday at the historic Rio Grande Theatre, 211 Downtown Mall, Las Cruces. Admission is free. Information: (575)
Sept. 1: Groove Factory (R&B, Funk, Reggae, Latin, Rock, Jazz, Salsa).
Sept. 15: No Strings Attached. Drummer Joe Seltzer and his latest “power” ensemble.
Sept. 29: Danny Ruley (country, rock, jazz).

Artists Den Presents alt-J — Experience alt-J’s private performance at the historic Hollywood American Legion in Los Angeles featuring exclusive concert footage and a welcome from the band at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept 2, at Cinemark El Paso 14 with XD, 8401 Gateway West. This exclusive concert experience features hits from alt-J’s newest album, Grammy-nominated “This Is All Yours,” and their 2012 debut “An Awesome Wave.” Tickets: $10-$13. Information: (212) 699-1840 or artistsden.com.

Speaking Rock Entertainment Center — 122 S. Pueblo Rd. Live music nightly. The center hosts tribute bands of various genres each Thursday. Age 18 and older welcome. Information: 860-7777 or speakingrockentertainment.com.
  Veteran British heavy metal quintet Saxon performs Thursday, Sept. 3. Their 21st studio album “Battering Ram” comes out Oct. 16.
  Classic rock band Jefferson Starship performs at 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19.

Jazz at Sunset — El Paso Community College will host the free outdoor jazz show 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, at EPCC’s Valle Verde Campus’s Americana Language Village, 919 Hunter with performances by Jorge Gonzalez Trio, Billy Townes and EP Jazz Quartet, John Goode (spoken word), El Paso Jazz Collective, Ruben Gutierrez and Case Closed, Billy Townes and Michael Hamilton Group. Bring a blanket or lawn chair. No alcohol or pets allowed. Refreshments will be sold. Information: 831-2292.

‘La Parada’ — The monthly grassroots event celebrating local culture and lifestyles celebrates its 5th anniversary 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, Sept. 4, at 501 Bar and Bistro at the San Carlos Building, 501 Texas. Cost: $5 age 21 and older; $10 age 18-20. Information: 351-6023 or on Facebook at laparadaep.
  Featured performers are Astronautica Dot Fettish (Farewell performance), Jess Rox, The Real Young Handsome, and Burlesque Dance with Khaleesi Love Skye, Madame Pearl, Abby Ripper, Bettie Mae Wiggle and Feisty Baudelaire/ Art by Francella Salgado and The El Paso Punk Rock Flea Market.

Sun City Music Festival — The 5th annual electronic music festival is 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 5-6, at Ascarate Park, 6900 Delta. Tickets: $129 two-day pass; $189 VIP pass. Information: suncitymusicfestival.com or discodonniepresents.com.
  Saturday’s headliner is Armin Van Buren and Sunday’s headliner is Hardwell.
  Other performers include Adam Beyer, Audien, Borgore, Borgeous, Cashmere Cat, Chris Liebing, Dash Berlin, Dubfire (Live), DVBBS, Hot Since 82, GTA, NERVO, Odesza, Robin Schulz, TJR, Yellow Claw, Zeds Dead, Bixel Boys, Botnek, Brillz, Claptone, Coone, Destructo, Felix Cartal, Flower and The Snake, Galantis, Hector, Ida Engberg, Jack Bass, Jauz, Kayzo, Lane 8, Liquid Todd, Morten, Riot Ten, Shiba San, Slander and Trippy Turtle.

Music Talks by Dr. John C. Swingle — Swingle will give a series of talks 1:30-3:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the Royal Estates of El Paso multi-purpose room, 435 N. Mesa Hills. Admission is free, but RSVP requested. Information: 833-3332.
  Sept. 9: John Denver. Sept. 16: Sir Edward Elgar. Sept. 23: The Child Ballads. Sept. 30: Benjamin Britten.

Under the Frequency auditions — Local television show Under the Frequency will hold auditions for Season 2 episodes from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, 17 and 24 at the Fountains at Farah in the Promenade Amphitheater, 8889 Gateway West. Producers will allow 10 bands to perform two songs for each event. Musicians, Artists and filmmakers can apply at fountainsatfarah.com. Admission is free. Information: 225-3620 or fountainsatfarah.com.

‘Pickamania!’ — Mimbres Region Arts Council celebrates folk, bluegrass and Americana acoustic musical traditions at the 7th annual music festival Sept. 11-13 in Gough Park, corner of Pope and 12th Streets in Silver City, N.M. Admission is free. Information: (575) 538-2505 or mimbresarts.org.
  The Kick-Off Dance in the historic downtown district is 7 to 9 p.m. Friday with the Big Ditch Crickets and special guest, Average Cadavers.
  Saturday’s performances are 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. with Amos Torres, The Gypsy Feet Band, Dead Pigeons, Truckstop Honeymoon, Birds of Chicago and The Black Lillies. The Dead Pigeons also will perform at Saturday’s Beer Garden, 8-10 p.m.
  Sunday’s performances are 11:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. with Compasito, Homemade Hoedown Kids, Lowest Pair, the Bus Driver Tour and the Claire Lynch Band.

Le Chat Lunatique — The virtuoso jazz group performs 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13, at Hillsboro Community Center, 316 Elenore, in Hillsboro, N.M (next to Union Church). Le Chat Lunatique (The Crazy Cat) was voted Albuquerque’s Best Jazz Band 2007 through 2014. Cost: $5. Information blackrange.org.
  Le Chat Lunatique blends a repertoire of classic Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli compositions with western swing, classical, reggae, doo-wop and original songs.

Trans-Pecos Gathering of Music + Love — El Cosmico vintage trailer lodge at 802 S. Highland in Marfa, Texas, hosts the 9th annual music gathering Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 24-27, with live music, sandlot baseball, camping arts and crafts, vendors, workshops and other activities. Music is 6 p.m. to midnight Thursday and Friday, and 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday. Tickets: $165 three-night pass; $220 with overnight camping. Information: (432) 729-1950 or elcosmico.com.
  Thursday’s performers: Jenny Lewis, David Garza, Tift Merritt, Ben Kweller, Tina Schlieske and Joyero
  Friday’s performers: Mexican Institute of Sound, Meshell N’degeocello, Rumba Shaker, Jessie Baylin, Hotel Brotherhood.
  Saturday’s performers: Portugal, The Man, Phosphorescent, Langhorne Slim, Hop Along, Bee Caves and Rockin’ Dopsie & the Zydeco Twisters.


Music series

High Noon Music Series — UTEP’s free weekly outdoor brown-bag concert series is noon to 1 p.m. Wednesdays at UTEP’s Student Union Plaza, featuring a variety of music. Information: 747-5711 or utep.edu/union.

Mesilla Valley Jazz and Blues Society — The society presents the Jim Helder Trio as part of its monthly concert series at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, at First Christian Church, 1809 El Paseo in Las Cruces. The music begins after a short business meeting. Admission: $8 ($5 members; $1 students with ID). Coffee and dessert reception precedes the concert at 6:30 p.m. in the foyer. Information: Larry Brooks, (575) 640-8752 or mvjazzblues.net.
  The Trio has Jim Helder on saxophone, Derrick Lee on drums, John Hyndman on bass, and Billy Townes on piano plus special guests.

Live Music at Sombra Antigua — Sombra Antigua Vineyard and Winery, 430 La Viña Road (off NM 28 between markers 8 and 9), in Chamberino, N.M. hosts free live music 2:30 to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Food trucks available most Saturdays; bring a picnic basket Sunday. Information: (915) 241-4349 or sombraantigua.com.

Mariachi Sundays in Mesilla — The Town of Mesilla, its business community and the Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference host the fall afternoon series 3 to 5 p.m. Sundays mid-September through November in the Plaza at historic Old Mesilla. Admission is free. Bring folding chairs or blankets. Pets and alcohol not allowed in plaza. Dates to be announced. Information: (575) 525-1735 or lascrucesmariachi.org.

Sunland Winery — 1769 Victory Lane in Sunland Park, N.M. Hours are 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday. Information: (575) 589-1214.
  Live Music is 7:30 p.m. Fridays 2 to 6 p.m. Sundays with David Huerta, 7:30 p.m. Saturdays with Huerta and Lala Ledezma, plus 8 p.m. Thursdays with Ledezma and Team Havana, and free Latin dance lessons. Free wine tastings.

Sunland Park Racetrack live music — Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino, 1200 Futurity Drive, hosts free music at 9.m. on selected weekends. Age 21 and older admitted. Information: sunland-park.com.

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.

Railroad Blues — 504 W. Holland, Alpine, Texas. Most performances begin at 10 p.m. Admission varies. Information: (432) 837-3103 or railroadblues.com.
• Friday, Aug. 28: Crooks
• Saturday, Aug. 29: Ulrich Ellison and The Tribe.

Carrizozo Music — Carrizozo hosts free community concerts each month at Trinity Methodist Church, 1000 D. Street, in Carrizozo, N.M. Information: (575) 648-2577 or carrizozmusic.org.
• 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30: Southwest Chamber Winds perform Mozart Quintet on piano and woodwinds
• 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29: Willy and Friends perform Beethoven String Quartet and Haydn “Surprise” Symphony.

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 7 to 10 p.m. Saturdays. Hosts are Dan Alloway and Gregg Carthy. Requests: 747-5153.


Comedy

El Paso Comic Strip — 1201 Airway. Shows are at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8:30 and 10:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $6 Wednesday and Thursday, $12 Friday and Saturday, $8 Sunday; VIP booths are $10 more per tickets; available at ticketweb.com.
  Information, reservations: 779-LAFF (5233), laff2nite.com or on Facebook at El Paso Comic Strip.
  Saturday Night Live veteran Chris Kattan, who starred in “The Middle” “Night at the Roxbury” and “Corky Romano,” presents a two-night engagement, “Chris Kattan and Friends” Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 14-15. Details to be announced.
  Saturday Night Live veteran Jon Lovitz performs Nov. 5-7. Showtime is 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 8 and 10:45 p.m. Saturday. Tickets: $32.50-$42.50. See separate listing.
Sept. 2-6: Blame the Comic. This comic’s name can be read in two ways: Blame the Comic or “Blame” (v.) the Comic. A native Houstonian, Blame has won several national comedy competitions. Feature act is Mario Salazar.
Sept. 9-13: Willie Barcena. Fresh from his Comedy Central Special “Deal with It” released last May, Barcena has written and performed a one-man show entitled “Cry Like a Man.”
Sept. 23-27: Jim Tavare, a native of the United Kingdom and International Star Search winner. Tavaré’s success as a comedian has spread to the United States through stand-up comedy, television shows and films. His film debut came in 2004 when he played Tom the Innkeeper in “ Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”
Oct. 7-11: The Midnight Swinger, from Las Vegas.


Border Beats


Recently added to the El Paso playlist:

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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