Cafe Olé

Luis Villegas

Domo Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/24/1998

I have always been a sucker for good guitar work. Even if I wasn't particularly fond of a song, if it had a guitar line that was well-played, I'd lock in on the radio and listen to it. Especially pleasing to my ears is good classical, Spanish or Flamenco guitar work. Having taken classical guitar lessons in college, I now watch some of these players master their instrument, and it both moves and frustrates me to tears. (It surprises me, then, that I have yet to add anything from the likes of Andres Segovia to the Pierce Archives - I just don't find myself in the classical aisles of Best Buy that much these days.)

Add Luis Villegas to the list of guitarists, then, that I would go out of my way to listen to and watch. Listening to his recently-released disc Cafe Olé, I can imagine his lightning-fast fret work on his nylon-string - and, frankly, I'm envious.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Assembling a crack team of bandmates to bring a Latin swing to the music (including drummer Gregg Bissonette, who's best known for his work with David Lee Roth and Joe Satriani), Villegas plows through thirteen songs that are guaranteed to make you groove in some way, shape or form. Centered around his lead lines (and occasionally a vocal provided by rhythm guitarist Roger Espinoza), this music challenges you not to want to get up and dance.

From the opening moments of "Baby Elephants," Villegas and crew capture your attention with their own mixture of Spanish and Flamenco works, with just a splash of American flashiness in the playing. When Villegas runs the length of the fretboards on some of his solos, it sounds like he would be just as comfortable holding a Les Paul. But Villegas never sounds like he's trying to be flashy, nor does he forget the roots of his playing, as heard on the rapidly-picked notes on "Spider Hugs".

Throughout Cafe Olé, I didn't hear a single piece that seemed to be lacking, or that didn't capture my interest and attention along the way. Tracks like "Don Quixote" and "S.O.B. (South O' The Border)" highlight how musically tight this group is, and even the addition of vocals to "Chiquilla" and "Mas y Mas" just serves to make the sound that much richer. Especially interesting is the way Villegas and Espinoza trade lead and harmony rhythms on the title track - remarkable!

Of course, many people who aren't familiar with this style of music might not be willing to give an album like Cafe Olé a fair shot in the CD changer. And that, kids, is a shame; anyone who appreciates the fretboard pyrotechnics of a player like Eddie Van Halen would surely find something special in Villegas's performances as well. True, he's not as concerned about playing two thousand notes in a solo. No, his solos are more rhythmically oriented, and help to bring out the natural beauty of his compositions - they just happen to have some of the flash that the heavy metal generation would approve of.

Cafe Olé is one of those albums that, if given a fair shot by the mass market, would aesthetically be pleasing to fans of many musical genres. Villegas and his band easily prove that they have the talent worthy of stardom. Now, all they need is the chance to win you over - and, believe me, they've earned it with this disc.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Domo Records, and is used for informational purposes only.