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Carlos Guitarlos: Straight From the Heart (Nomad), by Lee Hildebrand, San Francisco Bay Guardian, July 23, 2003

Neither as raw nor as bluesy as Mission Blues, San Francisco street musician Carlos Guitarlos’s 2001 debut CD, the follow-up, Straight from the Heart, nevertheless cuts an emotionally direct swath across the landscape of American roots music. Cajun, country, blues, rockabilly, and Memphis soul flavor the 17 original tunes – all held together by the weather-worn gruffness of Guitarlos’s voice, the whammy-bar sting of his instrumental attack, and the wisdom of lyrics in which optimism somehow outshines weariness. “I’m up every day doin’ what I can / Baby, I’m comin’ home to be with you again,” he cries out on “Ain’t That Lovin’ You,” a surging slice of soul that could have been cut at Stax circa 1967.

Guitarlos achieved notoriety in L.A. punk circles two decades ago with the raucous blues combo Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs, only to move north and fall on very hard times. With help from old friends Dave Alvin, John Doe, and Mike Watt (guesting on one track apiece) and a fine bunch of Bay Area players, the busker makes a solid – and quite soulful – bid to get back on top of the music biz. Carlos Guitarlos plays Sat/26, Eli’s Mile High Club, Oakl. (510) 655-6161.