August 2014

Music and Comedy

BORDER BEATS (Local CDs)

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns


Alfresco! Fridays — The 12th season of free outdoor summer concerts are 6 p.m. Fridays through Sept. 19, at their new location at Convention Center Plaza. Presented by the El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Centers and the El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau, and sponsored by FirstLight Federal Credit Union. No outside food or beverages, or pets allowed. No concert July 4. Information: 534-0633 or alfrescofridays.com.
Aug. 1: The Birddogs (classic rock)
Aug. 8: Windy City (Chicago Tribute Band)
Aug. 15: Joe King Carrasco (Tex-Mex)
Aug. 22: Abe Mac Band (country)
Aug. 29: Fungi Mungle (70s)
Sept. 5: Prime 80s Xperience (retro)
Sept. 12: Troupe Sublime (old school funk)
Sept. 19: Azucar (Latin variety).

Music Under the Stars — The 31st summer concert series, presented by the City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department is 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sundays, through Aug. 10, at the Chamizal National Memorial amphitheater, 800 S. San Marcial. No concert July 6. Admission is free. Information: 212-1777 (MCAD), 532-7273 (Chamizal) or espinozac@elpasotexas.gov.
Aug. 3: Joshua Tree U2 Tribute Band
Aug. 10: Mariachi Son de Mexico.
   Concertgoers may park at the El Paso Zoo and take a shuttle to the park for free from 6:30 to 10 p.m. (6 to 10 p.m. July 4)
   Grills are allowed at the park except in the inner part known as the bowl. Smoking not allowed in the bowl area. Glass containers, pets, and outside alcoholic beverages are not allowed in park grounds. Food, beverages, and alcoholic beverages will be for sale by the food vendors.

Melodies at the Park — El Paso Parks and Recreation’s free outdoor music concerts are 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. selected Sundays at various city parks. Information: 544-0753, 252-9031 or elpasotexas.gov/parks.
Aug. 3: Magnum Blue at Grandview Park, 3200 Jefferson
Aug. 10: Chuco Soul Project at Armijo Park, 710 E. Seventh.

‘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) 523-6403 or riograndetheatre.com.
Aug. 5: Joshua Saenz, 19-year-old singer from El Paso.
Aug. 19: Danny Ruley, romantic ballads, country and rock hits.

Paper Moon Shiners — The Austin, Texas duo will perform at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 6, at Grapes Gallery, 407 Main, Truth or Consequences, N.M.  Specializing in vintage American songs from the early twentieth century, Paper Moon Shiners has resurrected a jazzy musical style reminiscent of speak-easys and smoky juke joints. This free concert is sponsored by the Sierra County Arts Council. Information: (575) 894-0031 or grapes-torc.com.

Fat Dog — The acoustic folk rock band performs at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8, at Kinley’s House of Coffee & Teas, 2231 N. Mesa with Will Montano on vocals, mandolin and bass, Bob Flamm on vocals and percussion, Mike Spence on bass and Dave Larsen on vocals and guitar, and Ricky Rodriguez on percussion performing folk rock of the 1960s and 1970s. Admission is free. Information: Dave Larsen, 351-3539 or davedog46@yahoo.com.

Anything Box — The new wave band  behind the hit “Living In Oblivion,” performs at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8, at Room 101, 4151 N. Mesa.  Tickets: $25 (age 21 and older only). Information: 867-9101 or on Facebook at room101a.

Blues Festival — Mesilla Valley Jazz and Blues Society hosts a blues festival 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, at St. Clair Winery and Bistro, in Mesilla, N.M. featuring Marc and Tina Schwartz with Jim Shearer, 24/7 Blues Band and Muddy Hands Blues Band. Bring a lawn chair or blankets. Tickets: $10 in advance; $15 at the door Advance tickets available in El Paso at all White’s Music Box locations, in Las Cruces at St. Clair Winery, White’s Music Box, Hubbard Music ‘n’ More, and Mountain Music. Information: MVjazzblues.net.

Tailgate 2014 — The annual outdoor concert series in Alamogordo, N.M., raises funds for the Flickinger Center. Concerts begin at 8 p.m. on various Saturdays throughout the summer in the upper parking lot at the New Mexico Museum of Space History. Patrons should bring their own food, lawn chair and beverages. Gates open 6:45 to 7:45 p.m. Walk-up admission: $15 per couple. Season spaces are $180 (often sellout early) Information: (575) 437-2202. Online reservations at flickingercenter.com.
Aug. 9: The Bobcats
Aug. 23: Fungi Mungle

‘End of Summer Salute’ — First Armored Division Band hosts its summer concert 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15, at Nelf Field on Fort Bliss, featuring contemporary and patriotic hits. Admission is free and the public is invited. Information: 568-2263.

Speaking Rock Entertainment Center — 125 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.
   Metal band Warrant performs Saturday, Aug. 16.

The Singles - The Los Angeles (by way of Detroit) rock band perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20, at Soho, 500 N. Oregon.  The band is touring in support of their recent studio album “Look How Fast A Heart Can Break.” Also performing will be Swoon and Golden Trees. Information: 532-7646.

Last Mic Standing — Fountains at Farah, 8889 Gateway West, hosts the open mic music event 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 22. Winner receives $1,500 in prizes, including a recording session at Sonic Ranch, a photo shoot, and a mall gift card. Participation is free. Information: 225-3600 or contest@fountainsatfarah.com.
  Performers can pick up an application form in Suite 210 at The Fountains at Farah (between Massage Envy and Barnes and Noble) or fill out application online at fountainsatfarah.com.

Hope’s Journey concert - The performance by “Orchestre Sublime” is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, at the Chamizal National Memorial Theatre, 800 S. San Marcial. Tickets are $20. Information: 449-8761. Presented by Moon Shadow Productions.
   The music blends genres of Latin, Middle Eastern, Jazz, and Funk, composed by June Jacobs, who also plays bass. Trombonist Andre Hayward, saxophonist Mike Hamilton and percussionist Marcie Chapa will by joined guitarist Adrian Esparza, keyboardist Allan Rodriguez, drummers Eric Boseman and Ricky Malachi, percussionists Al Pagliuso and Francisco Ortega, trumpeter Marko Polo, vibraphonist Colin McAllister and instrumentalist, vocalist, dancer Leslie Yapor.

Michael Fracasso — The Austin-based singer/songwriter performs 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, at Rokoko Art Gallery, 1785 Avenida de Mercado in Mesilla. Doors open at 6 p.m. Admission: $15 suggested donation; proceeds go directly to the artist. Seating is limited, RSVP requested. Information: (575) 405-8877 or rokokoart.com.

Mariachi Real de El Paso recruiting — El Paso Community College’s Mariachi Real de El Paso is seeking recruits proficient in violin, trumpet, guitar, vihuela, guitarron and vocals. Participants must be able to read music, and vocalists must have some training and be able to match pitch. Classes begin 6 to 8;40 p.m. Wednesdays, Aug. 27, on the Valle Verde campus. Information: Anji Morgan-Thornton, (575) 650-3200 or amorgant@epcc.edu.

Denise Marie and Marcel Koster - The husband and wife duo performs at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 31, at the Black Box Theatre, 430 N Downtown Mall in Las Cruces. Tickets are $10 at the door. Reservations: (575) 523-1223. Show information: no-strings.org
   They play original Americana, Blues and Euro-Swing; guitar, accordion, percussion and harmony vocals. Denise Marie plays electric, acoustic, slide and tenor guitars, sings, writes songs and plays the riqq (Middle Eastern tambourine). Marcel Koster plays accordion, drums, percussion, piano and sings. Denise lived in New Mexico, Louisiana and upstate New York before meeting Marcel while on tour in Holland in 2007. Information: denisemarie.com.

Mariachi Paso del Norte — The mariachi specializing in “Musica, Cultura y Tradicion” performs 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays at Rosa’s Cantina, 3454 Doniphan. Information: 777-0047.

Jazz at Sunset — El Paso Community College will host the free outdoor jazz show 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5, at EPCC’s Valle Verde Campus’s Americana Language Village, 919 Hunter with performances by Jorge Gonzalez Trio, Billy Townes and Michael Hamilton Group, Candice Reyes Quintet, Ruben Gutierrez and Case Closed . Bring a blanket or lawn chair. No alcohol or pets allowed. Refreshments will be sold. Information: 831-2096.

‘Pickamania!’ — Mimbres Region Arts Council celebrates folk, bluegrass and Americana acoustic musical traditions Sept. 12-14 in Gough Park, corner of Pope and 12th Streets in Silver City, N  Performances are 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free to most events. Information: (575) 538-2505 or mimbresarts.org.
   The free Street Dance kick-off downtown 6 to 9 p.m. Friday.

BBQ Blues Band — The blues band hosts free open blues jam sessions 7 to 10 p.m. every Thursday, at Iron Horse Saloon, 4930 Hondo Pass. Musicians should bring their own amps and musical instruments; PA provided. Information: 244-0758 or on Facebook at bbqblues.

Kings X Blues Jam — Blackjack and Full Circle hosts free blues-only jams 8 p.m. to midnight the first and third Wednesday of the month at Kings X, 4119 N. Mesa. Bring a guitar and small amp;  drums, bass amp and PA provided. Admission is free. Information: 544-4795.

Iron Horse Variety Music Jam — Full Circle and Blackjack hosts free jam sessions 8 to 11:30 p.m. the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at Iron Horse Saloon, 4930 Hondo Pass. All styles of music welcome. Small amp, bass amp and drums PA provided. Information: 751-6064 or on facebook at Full Circle El Paso Texas.

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. Information: 877-4544 or zinvalle.com.
Aug. 10: Julio Ortiz
Aug. 24: Dan Lambert Trio
Aug. 31: Dusty Low

Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino’s Franklin’s Lounge — 1200 Futurity Dr. (at Sunland Park Drive), Sunland Park, N.M. No cover. Information: (575) 874-5200.
   Live music is offered 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
   Live Mariachi is 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sundays followed by DJ music 6:30 to 10 p.m.
   Karaoke with DJ Frank L is 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursdays.

Railroad Blues — 504 W. Holland, Alpine, Texas. Most performances begin at 9 p.m. Admission varies Information: (432) 837-3103 or railroadblues.com.
• Saturday, Aug. 2: Dead Pyrates Society
• Thursday, Aug. 7: The Thieving Birds
• Saturday, Aug. 9: Kevin Seale Band
• Friday, Aug. 15:  Alejandro Escoveda, 10 p.m.
• Saturday, Aug. 16: Radio La Chusma
• Friday, Sept. 12: Cooder Graw.
• Saturday, Sept. 20: Jam Sandwich
• Saturday, Sept. 27: Doug Strahan and the Good Neighbors
• Friday, Oct. 10: Moot Davis.

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, unless listed otherwise; available at ticketweb.com. Information, reservations: 779-LAFF (5233) or laff2nite.com.
July 30-Aug. 3: Amir K with feature act Grant Cotter
Aug. 6-10: Rob Little
Aug. 13-17: “The Dirty Show” starring the Smash Brothers
Aug 20-24: The Sandman hypnotist show. “X rated” show Sunday.
Aug. 31-Sept. 6: To be announced.

Gabriel Iglesias — The “fluffy” comedian and regional favorite performs at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16, at Socorro Entertainment Center, 11200 Santos Sanchez. Tickets: $25. Information: 790-4000 or speakingrockentertainment.com.

Damon Wayons — The actor and stand-up comic performs 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22, at Abraham Chavez Theatre. Tickets: $25 and $48; VIP seating is $58 (Ticketmaster).
   Wayans is known for his TV series such as “My Wife and Kids” and “In Living Color” and movies like “Beverly Hills Cop” and “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” as well as for his stand-up comedy roots.

Comedy Night at The Red Room — Refried Comedy EP host free standup comics 8:30 to 10 p.m. every Tuesday, at the Red Room Bar, 317 E Mills, with comics from El Paso and Las Cruces. Information: 532-0466 or on facebook at RefriedElPaso.

Bill Engvall — The Blue Collar Comic performs 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, at Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino in Mescalero, N.M. Age 21 and older admitted. Tickets: $25-$65 (Ticketmaster). Information: 1-877-277-5677 or innofthemountaingods.com.





Border Beats


Recently added to the El Paso playlist:

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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