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Dave Holland & Pepe Habichuela: Hands

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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The music on Hands, featuring stellar turns primarily from Spanish guitarist Pepe Habichuela and British-born bassist Dave Holland, is quite simply one of the most captivating on record. It is completely an alternative to style, to mere virtuosity, and to angelic grace and charm, as dictated by a muse. This music is the epitomé of the darkly beautiful magnetism of duende, and comes not from the hands and the fingers of the musicians, but rather from their innermost being—from the very soul of the artists. It aims its hypnotic corkscrew at the mind's eye, aiming myriad arrows of unbridled and primeval passion with every turn of the screw. It unwittingly sets the heart on fire, transforming into something rare and pliable with which the artists can toy—which they do, more so by Habichuela than Holland, but by both, nevertheless.

And then, of course, there are the other members of the Carmona clan to which Pepe Habichuela belongs—his son, guitarist Josemi Carmona; his nephews, guitarist Carlos Carmona and cajonist/percussionist, Juan Carmona—together with percussionist/cajonist Israel Porrina "Piraña," whose credits include that eternal album, Lagrimas Negras (RCA, 2004), which he recorded with the great Cuban pianist, Bebo Valdes and Spanish vocalist, Diego el Cigala. Holland provides a space for these percussionists to shine all too briefly on his "The Whirling Dervishes," a startling composition that unravels with blithe spirit and an unquenchable fire that swirls majestically from end to end. All three musicians glow dark and strong again on "Joyride," the second and last composition from the bassist.

Most of the music is dedicated to the soulful magic of the Spain of the Carmona clan, and it is this music that welcomes Holland, as if through a rite of passage as he twists and turns, with whorls of notes played across the melody of the cry of the trees that begat the wood for the guitars. Holland is almost alone in his gut-wrenching harmonies; his solos may be played on an undulating bass line, but they moan and wail with the songs' melodies. He is plaintive in the fandango de Huelva that is "Hands," and almost vocal on the tango "Subi La Cuesta," then mightily expressive on a song written for him, Habichuela's "My Friend Dave."

The guitarist is spectacular throughout. He weeps for a legend on "Camaron," a chart about the legendary flamenco singer who personified the art of duende. Habichuela is primal—a sort of medieval apothecary of music who is driven by his singular wood spirit, perhaps the one that abides in his guitar and one that sings through the trills and rapid glissandos that flash across the musical firmament as the guitarist's fingers fly across the fret board. But make no mistake: this is Pepe Habichuela's album, too. It is the guitarist who is the undying source of magic that courses through the music, making Hands an unforgettable album.

Track Listing: Hands; Subi La Cuesta; Camaron; The Whirling Dervish; Yesqueros; El Ritmo Me Lleva; Bailaor; Joyride; Puente Quebrao; My Friend Dave.

Personnel: Pepe Habichuela: guitar; Dave Holland: bass; Josemi Carmona: guitar; Carlos Carmona: guitar; Israel "Pirana" Porrina: cajón, palmas, percussion; Juan Carmona: cajón, palmas, percussion.

Title: Hands | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Dare2 Records


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