Born in Cleveland, now Florida based, guitarist Alex Lopez has recently released his fifth album called Rising Up with his trusty band The Xpress backing him up… He started out playing keyboards but was smitten by the guitar sounds of the British blues bands and took to that instrument instead. That is good news for guitar lovers everywhere as influenced by the likes of Clapton and Hendrix, it means we get another blues-rock fuelled album from a master of the fretboard. It has shades of other genres behind the blues with hints of jazz, R’n’B and even the odd Latin flavour showing through but it is primarily a blues album with weight and craftsmanship woven throughout. His last album was a treat (Yours Truly, Me… reviewed here on Bluesdoodles) and on this follow-up, I’m delighted to say the quality hasn’t dipped.
If there were any doubts, they were quickly dispelled by the opening salvo of Light It Up; a hint of Sixteenth Century Greensleeves in the riff, it soon develops into a blues rock song of quality…the funky bridge with organ and neat chord work leads to a solo that Alex wahs and then hands to Kenny to light up the keyboard: both a bit short for me, but still good.
Paradise is a blues shuffle of the best sort; keys and slide combine with neat bass and drum before a calmer bridge brings us to the Hammond that plays cleverly with the melody in a stonking solo; not one from Alex but the slide playing behind it all keeps me smiling.
The title track, Rising Up, has a touch of genius in the way the composition takes some funk, blues, rock and gospel, throws in a proggy keyboard middle, followed with funky chord work and a perfectly suited guitar solo while the bass lays down a great line: it all comes together nicely and produces a memorable whole. Not This Time slows the pace with a traditional blues approach favoured so much by the great Gary Moore. The solo also, thankfully, follows the template with carefully picked notes with the odd faster run meaning that the feel is improved, not ruined by histrionics. Similarly, as the song builds to its dramatic conclusion, the guitar speaks volumes.
I’m Always Wrong changes the feel again as we enter the jazz lounge but with an underlying bluesy bass and riff; the piano highlights the end of each verse and the subtle drums echo the big band feel. The guitar solo is short but sweet and the organ solo compliments that with more growl.
Even Up the Score takes us back to the days of bands like Cream with a solid and tasty blues-rock song as Alex even summons his inner Jack on the vocals. Imagine some of Cream’s best songs melded together with added keys and this is on a par…the guitar solo cleverly keeps us rooted there too. There’s even a bit of Ash with keys at the end to make this a firm, oft-repeated, favourite.
Anymore brings yet another feel; country rock with a hint of Southern too. The slide is so expressive even if it doesn’t get a solo…a commercial sounding song that is still a worthy inclusion. Mountain Rain takes down the acoustic road with a Page influenced sound: Alex plays a mean acoustic and it would have been nice if he’d extended this short song with a further demonstration of his dexterity…i.e. a solo!
Blues In My Groove is exactly as it sounds; a funky, bluesy boogie to get people dancing. The lyrics encourage this and the rhythms keep that feeling throughout…including two nice (but too short) solos from guitar and keys. A blues shuffle takes hold of the penultimate track, Falling. It may be that familiarly new sound I sometimes mention…but wait until the solo lifts it and the jazzy key solo at the end has the same effect.
The final track, Smile, has had a long gestation: Alex wrote it when he was just sixteen and has had a couple of attempts to ‘get it on tape’ to his satisfaction…well now he has and delivers a sort of 60s pop song with a bit of additional weight to the guitar riff and solo…sort of like a heavy blues version of Gerry and the Pacemakers!
As expected then, another varied, skilful, quality album from a man at one with his guitar and backed by a band that knows how to play with an almost psychic connection to the guitar and the ever-changing rhythms.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a wonderful and varied album of blues, rock and funkiness.
Light It Up
Not This Time
I’m Always Wrong
Even Up the Score
Blues In My Groove
Alex Lopez: guitar, vocals
Kenny Hoye: keyboards
Steve Roberts: bass
Kana Leimbach: drums
Latonya Oliver and Dana Merriwether: background vocals
George Harris: guitar
Recorded at Creative World Recording Studios in Tampa and produced by Alex Lopez and George Harris
( iTunes ran on to a brilliant version of I Got My Mojo Working by the phenomena that was Alexis Corner…blues owes this man so much.)