Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a wonderful blues-based but varied album of song focussed tracks with other genres skilfully woven in. The guitar still features, but not at the expense of the narrative and supplies some sensitive and powerful playing.
Born in Cleveland, now Florida based, guitarist Alex Lopez has just released his sixth album called Nasty Crime…of which he says:“the band and I have put together what I believe is going to be a monumental record, from top to bottom. The songs are about the challenging world we live in and messages of hope for a better day and the music rivals anything I’ve written.”
Alex 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. (Check out our thoughts on Rising Up and Yours Truly, Me here on Bluesdoodles.) It has shades of other genres behind the blues with hints of jazz, R’n’B, pop and even swing showing through but it is primarily a blues album with weight and craftsmanship woven through the eleven originals…one of which is a great update on a track first recorded on his debut album Back Bedroom Blues.
The bluesy rock of the opener, World on Fire, leaves us in no doubt that Alex is on top form as the slide and Hammond wash over and around the vocals…I kept thinking of a higher tenor, slightly heavier Humble Pie: regardless, a very strong start and a great, if short solo too. More bluesy, but still rocking and two excellent solos power Just Wait very nicely and the Hammond solo adds to the quality. I Don’t Care, at first listen, is a step-down, as we get a poppy sort of funky with hints of blues behind the pop melodies…further listenings do reveal a depth and cleverness to the structure…the bass and guitar in harmony on the bridge lead to a restrained, far too short solo and the tinkling piano somehow lift it high above those first thoughts.
Fear not, the blues are in command on the traditionally new When the Sun Goes Down. There are some neat touches throughout as Alex channels the 40s and 50s swing in his vocal delivery and then sparks across the decades in the precise and tasty solo. See the Light is next and, over some delicious bass and cleverly subtle drums, he again turns pop into more than acceptable bluesy, soul-y, funky rock…the keyboard solo is full of extended chords that bring added drama and makes up for the lack of a guitar solo! The First Time is a true solo effort as Alex on acoustic and vocals goes all romantic…except the hard chords and the purposeful hesitancy in the clever backing (a twelve-string?) warrants a close listen. Title track, Nasty Crime, takes back to rock and a complex guitar riff is backed by hefty Hammond as the funk moves into fusion and back to rock via the blues…complex yet accessible and with a sweeping Hammond solo and a suitably errant guitar solo means this has to be listened to a few times before true appreciation will dawn.
That Hammond is integral to Holy Woman too as funk and blues, aided by a cracking bass and drum backing, gather to (rightly) praise the female of the species: the guitar solo is one of the best here as Alex ranges across the fretboard in a crafted and crafty way…too short though. No Way is back to true blues and blues rock with minor chords and clever runs peppering an excellent song. Next up is the reworked song from his debut: Hooked is adapted into a swing feel rather than out-and-out blues…almost as if you were in one of those black and white films with smoky clubs and listening to the resident band…except Alex knits in some delicious slide and the band swing merrily along. No slide solo though, dammit.
The final track, That’s Alright, is a sort of slow blues that I cannot help but imagine being delivered by someone like Mama Thornton…and that’s meant as a compliment. The Hammond is a delight yet again, especially on the genius solo, and the two guitar solos are pitched, differently, to perfection and use just enough notes, relying on sustain and bends (mainly) to communicate the sentiment of the lyrics…they are, however, way, way too short.
Alex Lopez has done it again: weaving varied genres into the blues in meaningful and accessible ways that deliver a very good guitarists album that still focuses on the songs…not that a few more and/or longer solos wouldn’t have been appreciated!
World on Fire
I Don’t Care
When the Sun Goes Down
See the Light
The First Time
Alex Lopez: guitar, vocals
Kenny Hoye: keyboards
Steve Roberts: bass
Kana Leimbach: drums
Nasty Crime is available now on the Maremil label.
Connect with Alex Lopez across SOCIAL MEDIA
(iTunes delivered a lot more Alex, then some Alexis (as in Korner) but I let it run to the two albums by husband and wife team Ali Maas and Micky Moody and their bluesy albums Black and Chrome (try the Moody slide of Same Blues, Different Day) from 2016 and 2020’s Who’s Directing Your Movie? (the acoustic brilliance of Emotional Powder Keg Blues) Lovely stuff and it got me wondering where Micky is now…all seems quiet Micky…we miss you.)