Vargas Blues Band reign on King of Latin Blues

I must admit that, apart from his joint venture with Tim Bogert, Carmine Appice and Paul Shortino, I am not that familiar with Spaniard Javier Vargas’ output…and that output is extensive and will now cost me some serious money to hunt down all of his work. I only bought that venture as a result of my Jeff Beck ‘mania’ and my love of Cactus and Vanilla Fudge: the Beck, Bogert, Appice release from 1973 is a wonderful curiosity, even if the cover is uninspiring.

Javier is an accomplished blues guitarist who infuses his blues with influences and cultures as varied as Canned Heat, Alvin Lee with Argentinian and Cuban inflections built-in. He has also shared the stage and/or studio with the likes of Buddy Guy, Chris Rea and, significantly, Carlos Santana.

On his latest release under the Vargas Blues Band moniker, he has brought some updates of his earlier work as well as new compositions. King of Latin Blues melds styles and genres across fifteen tracks of guitar-based blues. This would appear to be a trimmed-down version of last year’s release but still provides ample opportunity to sample Mr. Vargas’ work. With a number of tracks on offer, I will select my personal highlights.

The title track embodies the Latin edge he effortlessly puts into the music; the Santana comparisons are inevitable but shouldn’t colour the overall effect of his intuitive playing and compositions…they are familiar only in the rhythms and the too-short solos make it an enjoyable listen. Don’t Let The Children Cry has brilliant slide and picked guitar giving the intro a weight that is slightly misleading as it moves into a vocal-led structure with neat toms backing and clever keys work. It is sort of Santana meets Wonder and wants you to sing-a-long and it is only when the guitar solo arrives that the song achieves something for me. Passion Blues is a soulful blues with tasty guitars and an off-putting vocal intro but soon becomes a decent love song with the guitar backing a lesson in subtle chord work and the sax solo in keeping. How Verso Are You? It is packed with lovely guitar that has a voice and variation that makes the song so strong. Para Guaracha is acoustic Latin and again lifts the song and, in my humble would have better as an instrumental…and that is not because it is sung in Spanish, but because I wanted to hear so much more of his acoustic style. Blues Latino is subtle washes of sound from the band before a superbly picked guitar piece that encompasses electric blues and a Spanish acoustic that makes it worth the entry fee as this instrumental shows why Javier is rightly revered. Vivir Al Alba, which apparently means Live At Dawn starts all cha-cha with a wah’d guitar then a picked section before we move into another (bar a couple of vocal choruses) very tasty guitar instrumental. Then there is another love of my life covered in Tierra Del Vino…Land of Wine is blissful as the title suggests with more clever guitar in the subtle intro and then the funky(ish) main section with slap bass, acoustic and electric guitars all adding up to best define the album’s title. Essentially an instrumental, the six-plus minutes travel the globe and deliver a moody, yet the effervescent sound that takes a few listens to appreciate the guitar playing fully. Del Sur translates as ‘from the south’ and brilliantly combines the Albert King style electric with an amazing flamenco acoustic section…it does work somehow and, like the other instrumentals makes Javier’s work well worth exploring….this is simply stunning.

So here is an album crammed with talent and originality…OK, it may not be blues in any traditional sense, but when you dig down and listen to the guitar phrasing and styles, it undoubtedly is. It will be an acquired taste for many, but there is a lot to be gleaned from listening to this happy marriage of styles and cultures…give it a listen and hear for yourself.

but soon becomes a decent love song with the guitar backing a lesson in subtle chord work and the sax solo in keeping. How Verso Are You? Is packed with lovely guitar that has a voice and variation that makes the song so strong. Para Guaracha is acoustic Latin and again lifts the song and, in my humble would have better as an instrumental…and that is not because it is sung in Spanish, but because I wanted to hear so much more of his acoustic style. Blues Latino is subtle washes of sound from the band before a superbly picked guitar piece that encompasses electric blues and a Spanish acoustic that makes it worth the entry fee as this instrumental shows why Javier is rightly revered. Vivir Al Alba, which apparently means Live At Dawn starts all cha-cha with a wah’d guitar then a picked section before we move into another (bar a couple of vocal choruses) very tasty guitar instrumental. Then there is another love of my life covered in Tierra Del Vino…Land of Wine is blissful as the title suggests with more clever guitar in the subtle intro and then the funky(ish) main section with slap bass, acoustic and electric guitars all adding up to best define the album’s title. Essentially an instrumental, the six plus minutes travel the globe and deliver a moody, yet effervescent sound that takes a few listens to appreciate the guitar playing fully. Del Sur translates as ‘from the south’ and brilliantly combines the Albert King style electric with an amazing flamenco acoustic section…it does work somehow and, like the other instrumentals makes Javier’s work well worth exploring….this is simply stunning.

So here is an album crammed with talent and originality…OK it may not be blues in any traditional sense, but when you dig down and listen to the guitar phrasing and styles, it undoubtedly is. It will be an acquired taste for many, but there is a lot to be gleaned from listening to this happy marriage of styles and cultures…give it a listen and hear for yourself.

SEVENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track listing:

  1. The King of The Latin Blues
  2. Coward’s Knife
  3. Don’t Let The Children Cry
  4. Welcome to The World
  5. Back To The City
  6. Passion Blues
  7. New York City Blues
  8. How Verso Are You?
  9. Para Guarachar
  10. Chill Out (Sacalo)
  11. Blues Latino
  12. Vivir al Alba
  13. Tierra del Vino
  14. Del Sur
  15. Buenos Aires Blues

Musicians:

Javier Vargas (guitar)

Luis Mayo (bass and vocals)

Peter Kunst (drums and vocals)

John Byron Jagger, Bobby Alexander, Tim Mitchell, Gaz Pearson (vocals)

(Itunes run on track brought me the unique rock approach of The Velvet Underground and the sweet, Sweet Jane…although I had to let it go to the daft but irresistible I’m Sticking With You which should be too twee but just isn’t!)

Vargas Blues Band reign on King of Latin Blues

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