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Published: 2001/07/17
by Derek Kipp

Special Blend – Los Blancos

self-released
Pass the gravy!
Ah, comfort. Sometimes comfort comes as basic as a half-decent, warm
diner on a cold wet highway. Comfort can be as distinct and humble as a
favorite jacket, a familiar bend in a hometown road — maybe leading
nowhere special but still easy, known. The sound of a hollowbody guitar
played well, slipping and striding over an easily accessible blanket of
drum and organ is a comfortable sound, jazzy enough to be rich, bluesy
enough to have soul, rocking enough to have that kick — and then the
vocals of a large man singing of timeless things like love (and lust)
and jealousy and hurt. Roast meats and biscuits are comfort foods, and
here is comfort music, courtesy of Los Blancos, opening their disc with
the blues of Mighty Mean Mama like an oven door opening to show you
the goods baking inside.
A quintet from Syracuse, New York, Los Blancos – listed without their
instrumentation as Colin Aberdeen, Steven T. Winston, Garnet Grim, Mark
Nanni and Jose Alvarez – are not out to reinvent the music they play.
They don’t bother trying to obscure their roots; you can hear the
strains of their forefathers in every bar. Sure, they take a more
ambitious tack on a fusion instrumental like Kaffe, but they won’t be
straying far from the warm hearth of what they know best, a rich stew
of well-executed boogie-worthy tracks and ditties, including covers of
John Cale’s Crazy Mama and Gershwin’s Summertime. The
hollowbody
slithers and strikes piquant rhythms, the organ pours forth like gravy,
and the drums never falter, holding the players tight to the well-worn
floor like the sturdy legs of the old kitchen chair.
This is the kind of music I’d like to encounter in full sultry swing if
I wandered into a rural roadside bar in search of hot tunes on a cold
night. Right away it feels like music that goes perfectly and with late
nights and smoky rooms with lots of wood …and perhaps a neon sign
giving everyone a glowing red silhouette. Strong vocals shepherd the
songs through their paces, hitting just enough passion to be
convincing, getting throaty when the moment calls for it, and at times
reminiscent of the younger days of ZZ Top and Van Morrison.
And, while I’d happily pay the roadhouse cover for this comfortable
stuff, I know it’s not breaking new ground, and they won’t be playing
Radio City anytime soon (without some incredible stroke of marketing
fortune, at least) — but that’s almost entirely beside the point. These
guys aren’t trying at all to forge a new path across the musical
universe. The goodtime
humor here and there on the disc feels makes me believe these are good
guys who have fun at what they do, which is probably feeding happy
audiences in warm, comfortable bars, perhaps hoping you might take a
little home of it with them via this disc. You know, to have some of
that good time comfort for yourself. You could do worse on your musical
spice rack.

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