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Carlos Guitarlos: Hell Can Wait, by James Porter, Blues Revue, January 2006

Carlos Guitarlos played guitar in the ’80s with Top Jimmy & the Rhythm Pigs, Los Angeles punks who amped up their blues far more aggressively than the typical bar band but still managed to sound traditional. Bandleader Jimmy Koncek passed away some years back, but on Hell Can Wait, Carlos is twice as feisty as he was 20 years ago. His ballsy voice sounds like Freddy Fender in a bad mood.

Many songs here take cues from bluesy ’50s vocal groups such as the Midnighters and the Five Royales. Listening to those stroll beats, you can almost hear where the horn section is supposed to come in, but slide guitar and harmonica take their place. And while some bands go out of their way to get a vintage sound (microphone placement, equipment, etc.), all Carlos’ crew had to do was pick up their instruments as the tape rolled.

Several styles are essayed here, including pumping piano boogie (“Shake With My Baby”), Tex-Mex balladry (“Making Better”), and ’60s soul strut (“Get Back”). Thankfully, Carlos doesn┬╣t believe in the 15-minute guitar solo, but there’s still an amazing number of face-melting licks. At no time do they overwhelm the song; Carlos is known for his writing chops as well as his playing. Maybe singing should be added to that list, too: Based on his belting style, it sounds as though he’s absorbed a lot of Joe Turner.