Sunday, January 30, 2022

FlamenGrass: “Alegria” (2022) CD Review

FlamenGrass is a new band made up of accomplished musicians, combining the sounds of flamenco guitar with bluegrass (thus, the name). The group, based in Barcelona, is made up of Lluis Gómez on five-string banjo, Carol Duran on vocals and violin, Maribel Rivero on vocals and double bass, and Javier Vaquero on flamenco guitar. Lluis Gómez, in addition to playing banjo, is known for his skill on violin and mandolin, and is director of Al Ras Bluegrass Festival. Carol Duran is known for her work in the groups La Carrau and Betzuca, as well as her own project Soroll Blanc. Maribel Rivero was part of the Canticle Chamber Orchestra, and with Lluis Gómez is a member of the Barcelona Bluegrass Band. Javier Vaquero is proficient in many styles of guitar, and has his own band, Javier Vaquero Group. Their debut release, Alegria, features a lot of original material, most of it composed by Lluis Gómez and Carol Duran, as well as some traditional numbers. This album came out of the pandemic, with the musicians recording their parts remotely.

I love music that is able to transport me out of my immediate surroundings and away from whatever mundane cares might be otherwise demanding my attention, and this album’s opening track, “La Flor,” does so immediately, with some gorgeous and passionate playing. It takes on a lighter bluegrass feel nearly halfway through, combining two worlds beautifully. This instrumental track was composed by Lluis Gómez. That’s followed by “Quan S’atura El Temps,” which takes on a sexy and romantic tone right away in that opening instrumental section. And we’re talking high romance here, the kind that carries over great and perhaps dangerous landscapes and might result in someone’s death, or at least willingness to die. The vocals come in approximately a minute into the track, and are voices from another land, to match the dramatic tones of the music. It is an overall fantastic effect. This track features some excellent work on guitar. It was written by Carol Duran.

“Grant Por Bulerías” is a wonderful tune with a great sense of movement. There is also a warmth to it that makes me think of family, of being together inside. And what fantastic playing, particularly on banjo. This one was composed by Lluis Gómez. Then “Station To Your Heart,” written by Carol Duran, has a strong opening that grabs our attention. Some of the lyrics of this one are sung in English, and there is a certain amount of joy to the vocals. But it is the instrumental work that especially stands out, doing a wonderful job of representing a train, the violin at moments like a whistle. And again there is a good sense of forward movement. A more somber tone is established at the beginning of “Nel Pozu,” a traditional piece featuring some stunning work on guitar. There is then a brief, but dramatic pause before the vocals come in. The vocals are beautiful and moving, expressing strength and loss. And I love that work on violin.

They change gears then for the album’s title track, “Alegria,” which has a much more cheerful vibe, as you might expect from its title. Here is one that might get you dancing, moving, or at the very least smiling, a song to lift your spirits. It was written by Carol Duran. That’s followed by another traditional piece, “Abenamar,” an exciting and moving tale, with some beautiful vocal work. This track also features some excellent work on violin. The album’s final traditional song is “Zorongo Gitano,” an interesting love song featuring more powerful vocal work. Then we get a lively, fast-paced original bluegrass number titled “RumbaGrass,” written by Carol Duran and Lluis Gómez. This one is a lot of fun, with a great amount of energy, a song to remind us of the joy in living. This phenomenal album concludes with “Imatges,” written by all four members of the group, the song’s lyrics delivered as spoken word. Jean Marie Redon, Sharon Lombardi and Martino Coppo join the group on vocals for this one. This track features some fantastic work on banjo.

CD Track List

  1. La Flor
  2. Quan S’atura El Temps
  3. Grant Por Bulerías
  4. Station To Your Heart
  5. Nel Pozu
  6. Alegria
  7. Abenamar
  8. Zorongo Gitano
  9. RumbaGrass
  10. Imatges

Alegria was released on January 20, 2022.

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