Bajo El Sol
2008 / Saulitomusic
Review by Michael Debbage
The Nuevo Flamenco guitar scene is currently dominated by the likes of Jesse Cook, Johannes Linstead and Benise to name just a few. So what does Russ Hewitt bring to the table that makes him different to his peers? With his musical background rooted in rock, while Hewitt’s guitar work is fluid it comes across with an underlying attitude that sets him apart from his counterparts making Bajo El Sol a compelling and interesting twist.
Prior to his solo creation, the North Texas resident was as a member of rock bands the Whipping Post and Hollow that opened for the likes of Sammy Hagar, Quiet Riot and Zakk Wylde. Needless to say his musical roots carry over to his freshman offering resulting in a slant on his musical expression that separates him from his peers. Such influences can be heard on the rhythmic movement of the opening title track. This is not to say that Hewitt’s playing is rigid or over the top. Peruse forward to “Lydia” and you would have no clue that Hewitt was originally “educated in the school of rock”. Equal to the task is the mellow meandering found on the folksy “Tranquillo” that is moody yet buoyant.
Hewitt also did not settle for second best and went out on a limb and brought in outside producer and bassist Bob Parr from the Brian Setzer Orchestra that resulted in a very dynamic and meticulous production. His band also includes top notch musicians Walfredo Reyes Jr. (Santana and Strunz & Farah) on drums and Rafael Padilla (Miami Sound Machine and Shakira) on percussion. The group effort is best heard on the rousing exotic closer “Byzantine” that will have your toe tapping and your body swaying in unison to the musical magic carpet ride.
With the likes of Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Albert Collins, Texas has produced some very exceptional blues guitarists. Russ Hewitt’s solo debut is so impressive that he is capable of putting Texas on the Nuevo Flamenco guitar map with his distinctive fusion of Latin and jazz themes stirred with a little underlying rock and roll attitude. Hewitt has his own party going on bringing a very unique attitude to his craft. And if Bajo El Sol is any indication of Russ Hewitt’s creative capabilities then things should get very interesting not only for North Texas but the Nuevo Flamenco music in general.
February 2, 2008