Thursday, June 1, 2017

Alex Lopez – Slowdown

Alex Lopez – Slowdown 

Alex Lopez’s initial musical inspiration, The Beatles and British blues/rock bands, can still be heard in his music. He has, however, considerably transformed that inspiration over the course of three albums and this latest release, Slowdown, surely ranks as his most individual and successful work yet. It is a product of both his natural growth as a songwriter but, surely, the scores of live appearances he’s logged with his band the Xpress at major venues and festivals throughout the southeast. His style now owes much more to artists like Buddy Guy and B.B. King than Clapton and others of his ilk, but Lopez’s desire to tether his style to longstanding icons like those men should never indicate he is beholden to their playing. His guitar work, instead, clearly filters it through his experiences and subconscious into something that owes debts, but is ultimately uniquely his own.
He gets things off to an ass-kicking start with the wah-wah infused guitar fury of “Dangerous”. Lopez’s snarling licks come crashing through the mix and lightning strikes of flash elevate this performance several notches above the norm. He possesses the needed vocal grit to make this sort of exercise work out – there’s not a sliver of weakness in his singing. Hard-bitten blasts of slide come through on a number of songs but few of its uses have a better effect than those we hear on “The Wildlife” – it augments the song’s inherently hard charging nature and gives it an appealing rough and tumble quality. The title track is a bit more nuanced than the aforementioned tunes, but Lopez succeeds just as well with the simmering intensity he wraps around this track. Lopez has a knack for making personal statements through his songwriting in a musical style that rarely showcases such talents. His instrumental talents are considerable, but on more than half of this album or better, Lopez makes the case that he’s a songwriting deserving of our serious consideration as among the best today.  
There’s a strong and nice echo of Led Zeppelin’s blues posturing heard in the track “Words of Wisdom”, particularly on the chorus, and the guitar does an excellent job of slightly aping Page’s guitar heroics without ever lapsing into outright imitation. The first of the album’s shifts in mood comes with the song “Enough of It” – it’s a sleek, sinewy number that pulls back on the guitar’s reins just enough to produce a notably different effect. Though the tempo is a little amped up for the comparison, this song might pleasantly remind some of the Rolling Stones spiked with a dash of rockabilly. “Exodus/Long Long Time” is far and away the moodiest number on Slowdown. It begins with the brief first half, a waterfall of electric guitar clustered together claustrophobically, before dispersing into the jangling folk song gloom of the song’s second half. Lopez’s plaintive whine in his vocals is particularly effective here.  
“Stolen” is the album’s purest example of slow, gut wrenching guitar blues while its following track “I Love You, Blues” takes on a smokier nightclub flavor and doesn’t rely so much on six string theatrics. The album’s final song concludes Slowdown on an important note. “War Without a Face” is another personal effort on an album filled with such moments and clearly conveys his passion for the subject matter without ever overwhelming listeners. Alex Lopez’s talents have earned him spots on some of the nation’s biggest stages and, with the release of Slowdown, that trend is sure to continue.   

Frank McClure

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