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Carlos Guitarlos: Hell Can Wait, by Art Fein, Art Fein’s Poker Party, December 2005

The new Carlos Guitarlos album, Hell Can Wait, his second, is the greatest thing I’ve heard in a century. I could not believe such an album could be made today. It harkens to the best parts of the early 70s country/rock hybrid movement (The Movement With No Name), though it is fundamentally an r&b record. (Delaney & Bonnie with James Burton on guitar?) I listen to it over and over again. I cannot get enough of it. I have not listened to an album constantly in this fashion since 1978.

Marcy Levy (‘Marcella Detroit,’ who, when a background singer for Eric Clapton co-wrote “Lay Down Sally” and was co-singer and writer of “Stay,” a 1992 UK hit for Shakespeare’s Sister) is Carlos’s co-singer on several moving cuts.

I wish the record hadn’t opened with the good but ‘regular’ blues of “Love Me From The Start.” It makes you think it’s a blues album. “Got No Time,” second cut, is fine too, but I would have led off with cut 3, “Get Back,” an emotional powerhouse with brilliant Bobby Bland-style horns, sung by Carlos and Marcy. (And Carlos’s brother, Ray Ayala, a prominent L.A. singer in his own right.) On cut 4 Carlos trades off vocals and guitar with David Hidalgo of Los Lobos (they also share cut 10, “Keep Me Satisfied, with Hidalgo on accordian) to excellent results. Cut 5 is another sharer with Marcy Levy, and it is tremendous.

It EXPLODES with cut 6. “I Found Someone,” is deep and moving love ballad with r&b footing that is simply incomparable, aided again by the marvelous Marcy. Cut 8, “Drinking Again,” which Carlos wrote about his old bandmate the late Top Jimmy, is so brilliant I can’t speak; it connects directly to the 50s in ways I never thought possible today.

I first heard this CD on a portable player, but got distracted somewhere in the 19 tracks and didn’t realize what a MASTERPIECE it was until at the gym (I go, barely) (clothed, but reluctantly, I mean) I heard cut 16, “I Feel Love,” another original. The cry of his soul is so eloquent …. you CANNOT HELP BUT CRY at its beauty.

The razzle-dazzle of Gene Taylor’s (Blasters) boogie woogie piano – and Carlos’s lyrical – improvisation on cut 9, “Say You Love Me,” is a wonderful blast of Joe Turner/Pete Johnson done anew. Cut 18, “Hole In My Pocket” is Howlin’ Wolf reincarnated, great like his other blues blasts that are NOT EMBARASSING LIKE SO MANY CONTEMPORARY BLUES EFFORTS.

The finale, “I’ve Been Dead Since You’ve Been Gone,” is a beautiful cry of loss that took affected Carlos so emotionally that he put off recording it for a year.

IT IS BRILLIANT.
AWESOME.
HEARTBREAKING.

Thank God for Carlos Guitarlos.