June 2016

Music and Comedy


Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns

Las Cruces Country Music Festival — The 2016 festival is April 29-30, along Main Street in historic Downtown Las Cruces, with two stages of music, food trucks, vendors, a kids area and more. Festival gates open at 5 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday. Festival passes are $45 ($40 in advance) for Friday and Saturday; day passes are $25 in advance; $30 at the gate; available online at lascrucescountrymusic.com.
  North Stage headliners:
• Friday: Aaron Watson at 6:45 p.m. Lee Ann Womack at 8 p.m. and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band at 10 p.m.
• Saturday: Rick Trevino at 6 p.m., Cam at 7:15 p.m. and David Nail at 9:15 p.m.
  South Stage headliner is Josh Grider at 9:10 p.m. Friday, and Bri Bagwell at 8:50 p.m. Saturday.
  VIP preview party is 6 p.m. Thursday, April 28, at Hotel Encanto. Admission: $150 in advance only ($145 with military ID)
  Official after parties are 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday at De La Vega’s Pecan grill, for age 21 and older.
  Sunday brunch is 10 a.m. Sunday, May 1, at New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum featuring a western wear fashion show and performances by some of the festival artists. Cost: $25.
  Rodeo performances are 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday on the NMSU campus.

Jazz Unlimited Big Band — The jazz band presents its 12th annual concert at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, 5005 Love Road, with guest vocalist Cheryl Tomczuk. Admission is free; donations welcome. Information: 637-4569.

Magrudergrind — The grindcor band performs at 8 p.m. Monday, May 2, at Sandbox, 5352 Doniphan, with Yautja and local bands. Information: 383-8023.

Mesilla Valley Swing Band — The band, directed by Bob Burns, presents its annual spring concert 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 14, First Christian Church, 1809 El Paseo, Las Cruces. The first half of the concert will honor NMSU graduate Gene Zika, and will feature Zika’s arrangements for the first half of the concert. Admission is free, donations welcome. Information: (575) 525-9333.
  The Mesilla Valley Swing Band (formerly New Horizons Swing Band) is a full 17-20 piece big band. The band will feature music from Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and more.

Divas de España — Virginia presents a tribute to the Divas of Spain with a performance and dance 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday, May 15, at Las Cascadas ballroom, 1071 Country Club Road, celebrating performers such as Sarita Montiel, Rocio Jurado, Rocio Durcal, and Lola Flores. Snacks and beer available. Admission: $15.

‘5 Years of Song’ — Singing Out Las Cruces presents its spring concert at 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 21-22, at Good Samaritan Auditorium, 3011 Buena Vida Circle, Las Cruces. The LBGT and Allies community choir will feature its greatest hits. A silent auction and refreshments offered at intermission. Admission is $10 (at the door or in advance at Spirit Wind Coffee Bar, 2260 S. Locust). Information: (575) 640-0816, singingoutlascruces.org.
  The Las Cruces chorus is a member of GALA Choruses (Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses). They are a not-for-profit mixed-voice chorus of gay and straight men and women who enjoy entertaining a wide variety of audiences with music, including classical, traditional and contemporary.

Tyler Farr — One of country music’s hottest rising stars opens the summer’s “Let Freedom Sing” concert series at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at Fort Bliss’s Freedom Crossing’s event lawn. Opening act is the Joe Barron Band
  No coolers or outside food and beverages permitted. Chairs permitted on concrete areas only. The public is welcome; early arrival is encouraged. Information: 564-5311 or freedomcrossingatfortbliss.com.
  Farr made his big splash on the country music scene with his first top ten hit “Redneck Crazy” in 2014, which was followed, by his second hit, “Whiskey in my Water.” That year he was nominated for Music Row’s “Breakthrough Artist of the Year.” In 2015, off his second album, Suffer in Peace, he released the No. 1 single, “A Guy Walks into a Bar,” and his current hit “Better in Boots.”

Music series

State Line Music Series — West Texas Food Bank and State Line Restaurant, 1222 Sunland Park Drive presents the Rudolph Chevrolet-Honda-Mazda-Volkswagen outdoor concert series 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays during the summer months, featuring nationally-known country bands to up-and-coming artists. Admission is free; age 21 and older welcome. All customers asked to bring non-perishable food donation or monetary donation for the West Texas Food Bank. Information: 581-3371, WTxFoodBank.org or countyline.com.
  After party held following each concert at Aceitunas Beer Garden, 5200 Doniphan.
April 27: Dirty River Boys
May 4: Maddison Livingston
May 11: Jason Boland
May 18: Uncle Lucius
May 25: Alice Wallace
June 1: Dusty Low

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 Saturdays and Sundays. Food trucks available most Saturdays; bring a picnic basket Sunday. Information: (915) 241-4349 or sombraantigua.com.
April 30: Frontera Jazz Guitarz, 2 to 6 p.m. hosting International Jazz Day with Friends
May 1: Daniel Rodriguez Jazz Duo, 2:30 to 5 p.m.
May 7: Jerry Pacheco & Ed Camden, 2 to 5 p.m.
May 8: Tom Kanouse, 2 to 5 p.m.

Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino — The racetrack and casino, 1200 Futurity Dr. (at Sunland Park Drive), Sunland Park, N.M. Offers live entertainment at on select dates. No cover. Information: (575) 874-5200 or Sunland-Park.com.
  Park After Dark outdoor concerts are Friday, May 27, with Los Tucanes de Tijuana; and Friday, June 17. with Primavera. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets: $15 general admission; $30 reserved.
  Free live music is 9 p.m. Fridays, featuring Latin and regional music and Saturdays featuring rock and pop variety. Mariachi music is 5 p.m. Sundays.
  Free performances by tribute bands featured 9 p.m. Saturdays:
April 30: Don’t Look Back (Boston Tribute).
May 14: “Blaze of Glory” Bon Jovi Tribute
May 21: ‘80s Station, 80s music.

Black Orchid Lounge — 6127 N. Mesa, Suite A. The lounge hosts several live music events, including open mic and Friday jazz. Cover is free, but minimum purchase required. Information: 307-5617 or theblackorchidlounge.com.
  Friday Jazz and Wine live jazz bands begin at 9 p.m.

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.
May 1: Ricardo Valencia.
May 8: Julio Ortiz
May 22: Gold Hearted Crows
May 29: Dusty Low

Speaking Rock Entertainment Center — 122 S. Pueblo Rd. Live music nightly. Age 18 and older welcome. Admission is free, unless otherwise listed. Information: 860-7777 or speakingrockentertainment.com. Free entry.
  The modern rock Hard Drive Tour is 10 p.m. Monday, May 23, with Sick Puppies, Red Sun Rising, Stitched Up Heart, Hudson and Smashing Satellites.
  Rock band Blue October (Bleed Out, Angels in Everything) performs at 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 1.
Tribute bands are 8:30 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays:
May 5: Revolution de Amore (Manå)
May 7: Poison Overdose (Poison)
May 12: Rob Caudill is Rod Stewart
May 14: Indestructible (Disturbed)
May 19: Make It Last All Night (Tom Petty)
May 21: Red Not Chili Peppers (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
May 26: The Joshua Tree (U2)
May 28: Blackout (Scorpions)
June 2: Britain’s Finest (Beatles)
June 4: 40 oz. of Freedom (Sublime)

Alfresco! Fridays — The 14th season of free outdoor summer concerts are 6 p.m. Fridays May 6-Sept. 30, at Convention Center Plaza. Presented by ElPasoLive.com and sponsored by FirstLight Federal Credit Union. No concerts June 17 or Sept. 2. No outside food or beverages, or pets allowed. Information: 534-0633 or alfrescofridays.com.
May 6: Radio La Chusma (Latin, Reggae)
May 13: Windy City (Chicago Tribute Band)
May 20: Exito (Tejano)
May 27: Fixed Idea (Latin Ska)
June 3: Route 66 (Retro)

Howling Coyote Coffeehouse — The open mic event, now in its 11th year, is 7 p.m. Friday, May 6, at Center for Spiritual Living, 575 N. Main, on Las Cruces Downtown Main Street, following the monthly Downtown Arts Ramble. Signup begins at 6:30 p.m. The community event is on the first Friday of the month. Free admission to participants and audience. Information: Bob Burns, (575) 525-9333 or bobandmelody@sbcglobal.net.
  The “Howling Coyote” is open to acoustic musicians, poets, storytellers, and singer/songwriters for material that is family friendly. Coffee, soft drinks and snacks available.

Sheltered Hearts Music Series — The inaugural family friendly music series to benefit the Reynolds Home runs during the summer months, at 5 to 10 p.m. 8023 San Jose, with jumping castles, face painting, games and more. The Saturday, May 7, bands include Frenzi, b Series and The Valley Rats. Dance contest at 7 p.m. Sponsors sought for all three series. Information: 929-9055 or 691-0392.
  June features a rockabilly and oldies theme, and July a county theme.
  Reynolds Home is a homeless shelter for women and children, and Project Chance an organization that creates hope for abuses and neglected children everywhere.

‘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) 6403.
May 10: Frank Lovato
May 24: Al Chance.

Cool Canyon Nights — The summer series of free outdoor summer concerts are 6 to 9 p.m. Thursdays May 12-July 28 at McKelligon Canyon, Amphitheatre, sponsored by WestStar Bank. Admission is free; craft beers and cocktails for sale, with food sold by a variety of food trucks.
  Star Lounge Pass is $7 online, $10 at the door, providing access to Star Lounge, free hors d’oeuvres, private bar and seating in the lounge, reserved seating in the amphitheatre, and half-off first drink.
  Information: 534-0600 or elpasolive.com, kisselpaso.com or on Facebook at CoolCanyonNights.
May 12: Brown Betty
May 19: Azucar
May 26: Birdogs

Mesilla Valley Jazz and Blues Society — The society presents El Paso Jazz Collective will be performing “Jazz with a Led Zeppelin base” at its monthly concert series at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 15, 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 Collective consists of local musicians, Chris Oliver, trumpet; Colin McAllister, vibraphone; Roman Chip, sax; Nick Flood, sax; Allan Kaplan, Trombone; Billy Townes, keyboard; Shaun Mahoney, guitar; Bruno Avitia, bass; and Ben Guerrero, drum.

The Gathering — The gathering of poets, storytellers, singers, and musicians is 1 to 3 p.m. the third Sunday of each month (May 15) at the McCall Neighborhood Center, 3231 Wyoming. Anyone, regardless of age, who aspires to become a poet, storyteller, musician, writer, singer or dancer is welcome to share their talent, fine tune it, and receive feedback if so desired. Admission is free. Information: 490-6440.

Pic Quik Music in the Park — The Las Cruces summer concert series are 7 p.m. Sundays during the summer months featuring both local and guest artists. No pets allowed. Admission is free. Information: (575) 541-2550 or las-cruces.org.
  Events regularly begin Memorial Day weekend; schedule to be announced.

306 Sessions — Zeven Music Studios, 11394 James Watt, Suite 306, hosts a concert series at 6 p.m. Sundays, featuring different local bands every week performing all original music in all genres. There will also be an open mic portion and art for sale by local artists, as well as interviews with local arts organizations. Musicians, poets, comedians, and visual artists welcome. Admission: $5 suggested donation. Information: 412-3403 or on Facebook at 306 Sessions.

Echoes in the Park — Drumming Enthusiasts of El Paso (DEEP) host the open drumming circle, now in its tenth year, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Fridays, through Oct. 29, at Upper Tom Lea Park on Rim Road. Bring your own percussion. Other instruments acoustic welcome. Participation is free. Information: 491-3476 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.

‘La Parada’ — The monthly grassroots event celebrating local culture and lifestyles is the first Friday of the month at 501 Bar and Bistro in the San Carlos Building, 501 Texas. Information: 351-6023 or on Facebook at laparadaep.
  The first event of the season is May 6, with a Lucha Libre theme (everyone is encourage to wear luchador masks). Headline performer is Detroit legend DJ Minx (Women on Wax)! Local musicians include Mikey Cloud, Sleep Ctrl and System.A and Birth Defects. Visual artists painting on site will be Gemz and Grenade.

Sunland Winery — 1769 Victory Lane in Sunland Park, N.M. Hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Live music each night; call for lineup. Information: (575) 589-1214 or on Facebook.
  Salsa Social Thursdays are 8 p.m. with Lalo Ladesma, and free dance classes at 10 p.m.
  Country Fridays with David Huerta are 7:30 p.m.; doors open at 5 p.m.
  The BirdDogs perform at 8 p.m. April 30. Admission: $5 ($6 couples).

Railroad Blues — 504 W. Holland, Alpine, Texas. Most performances begin at 10 p.m. Admission varies. Information: (432) 837-3103 or railroadblues.com.
• Friday, April 29: No Dry Country, with guest Chance Anderson Band
• Wednesday, May 4: Red Elvises
• Saturday, May 7: Jeremy Steding
• Friday, May 13: Adrian Conner and Chaska
• Saturday, May 14: Zach Casey and the Swingmasters
• Thursday, May 19: Soul Track Mind
• Saturday, May 21: Doug Strahan

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.


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. Ticket prices vary; 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.
April 27-May 1: Raymond Orta.
May 4-7: J.R. Brow, with feature act Aaron Brooks.
May 11-15: Robert Hawkins, with feature act Bob Khosravi.
May 18-22: James Davis, with feature act Ashley Barnhill
May 25-29: Brian Scolaro with feature act Alli Breen.
June 8-12: Kabir “Kabeezy” Singh.

Laughterhours Trivia Challenge — Laughterhours Comedy hosts weekly trivia challenge nights hosted by local comedians at various venues in El Paso. The shows are set up in a live video game format. Recurring schedule subject to change. Admission is free, unless otherwise listed. Some events are for ages 21 and older; see calendar for details, updates: laughterhourscomedy.com.
• The “Continuing Saga of Dr. Comedy curated and unpredictable live stand up comedy showcase 10 to 11 p.m. Wednesdays at Craft House Pub & Grub, that incorporates elements of improv and live to music. Information: (620) 204-0745.
• Brains & Brews Trivia Challenges are 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, at Barman Bistro, 4130 N. Mesa; and 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Craft Hour Pub & Grub.
• LaughterHours Trivia Challenge is 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Funkmeyers Rec Room, 1506 Lee Trevino, and Trivia Game Show is 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, at Jack’s Beach House, 11240 Montwood.
• Karaoke Superstar at 9 p.m. Wednesdays at Funkmeyers and Jack’s Bach House; and 9:30 p.m. Thursdays at Pint & Peanut, 518 W San Antonio.

Gabriel Iglesias — The “fluffy” comedian and regional favorite performs at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, May 26-27, at Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino in Mescalero, N.M. Age 21 and older admitted. Tickets: $35-$80 (Ticketmaster); sold out as of press time. Information: 1-877-277-5677 or innofthemountaingods.com.
  Friday event sold out at press time.

Bill Engvall — The Blue Collar Comic performs 8 p.m. Sunday, June 19, at Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino in Mescalero, N.M. Age 21 and older admitted. Tickets: $35-$75 (Ticketmaster). Information: 1-877-277-5677 or innofthemountaingods.com.

El Paso Improv League — Live, unscripted comedy is offered at 9 p.m. Thursdays, at the Pizza Joint, 500 N. Stanton. Information: 261-4060 or facebook.com/elpasoimprovleague.

Border Beats

Recently added to the El Paso playlist:

Border Beats

‘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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