Guitarist and producer Chris Cortez's Aunt Nasty brims with a joie de vivre that permeates the entire album becoming its pervasive theme.
The disc opens with a Latinized "Caravan" highlighting Cortez's flamenco guitar stylings that cascade over James Metcalfe's Afro Cuban percussion. Jimi Hendrix's "Fire" closes the album and it transforms into a gutbucket anthem with passion, shouting vocals, horns, blistering electric guitar and Glen Ackerman's pulsating bass.
Even the two original songs, that portray an unfortunate soul, are upbeat. The title track never loses its sense of humor with whimsical lyrics even though it tackles the serious issue of drug abuse. Texas Johnny Boy's acerbic mouth harp enhances the rowdy blues-rock vibe that matches the drollness of the words. Woody Witt's wailing, old-fashioned R&B-esque tenor solo bisects the track into two thematic "chapters." The uplifting "The Man with No Arms" is a ballad about physical handicap and the courage to overcome it. Cortez's loosely swinging guitar, with hints of melancholy mirrors the inspiring verse.
Cortez peppers the record with a handful of short yet complex improvisational pieces, like the psychedelic "When You Wish Upon A Star" and the contemplative "Ask Me No Questions" that bring a touch of romanticism to the music.
Some of the longer instrumental pieces have a cinematic feel. The urban "Aargh" sounds like a 1970's soundtrack as Andrew Lienhard's greasy keyboard backs Cortez's smooth guitar and Witt's contrasting but complementary gritty saxophone. The summery "San Cruz" has the feel of a relaxing vacation with Witt's airier but no less intricate tenor preceding Cortez's faster yet laid back Latin guitar groove over hot keys and deep percussion.
This enjoyable record is a musical celebration of the many facets of life and it has the power to simultaneously delight the ear and stir the soul.
Caravan; Aunt Nasty; When You Wish Upon A Star; While My Guitar Gently Weeps; The Man With No Arms; Mickey Mouse Club; Aarrgh; Invitation; It's A Small World After All; San Cruz; Ask Me No Questions; Fire.
Chris Cortez: guitars, vocals; Glen Ackerman: bass; Guillermo Reza: drums; Andrew Lienhard: keyboards; Woody Witt: tenor saxophone; Carol Morgan: trumpet; James Metcalfe: percussion; Bernard Pierre: Keyboards (7, 12), background vocals; Thomas Hulten: trombone (2), Texas Johnny Boy: blues harp (2), Warren Sneed: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, flute (5, 8, 12); Will Cruz: percussion (5, 7, 10, 12).
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