2022 / Saulito Music
Review by Michael Debbage
The Dallas Metroplex area is not the capital of Nuevo flamenco guitar by any means. However, Dallas resident Russ Hewitt has been single handedly providing evidence over and over again of positioning the Dallas area on the map since 2011. His upcoming most mainstream effort to date Chasing Horizons, with a street date of August 19th 2022 makes this long term dream an even stronger plausible reality.
Russ Hewitt impressed us with his recording debut Bajo El Sol fourteen years ago and has been patient and particular with his steps ever since. With his equally strong follow up Alma Vieja along with his last recording effort Cielo Nocturno seven years ago, keeping a creative streak is a difficult task for even the best of musicians and streaks are made to be broken. Clearly this is not the case with Chasing Horizons that continues to exceed all expectations of Hewitt’s prior recordings.
As well as a heavy presence of musical friends, this is still about the musical prowess and the slightly different melodic approach of this Nuevo flamenco guitarist who originates from the school of rock. As a result, this 10 track album opens with Hewitt going it alone on the breezy steady fluid melodic “Allende”. Close your eyes as you just might hear the rustling of palm leaves as you sit on your mental warm sandy beach of choice. With a total of four tracks with Hewitt in the spotlight, he is equal to the task of making this album so inviting more so than anything he has done in the past. Check out the radiant “Luminous” or later in the album the brooding moody “Serein”.
But it would be silly to talk all things Russ when he was kind enough to invite others to the musical banquet where they graciously accepted. First up is the appearance of Nuno Bettencourt, best known for his axeslinger work in the unique rock band Extreme. However, here Nuno trades in his electric strings for nylon ones and Hewitt goes toe to toe with Nuno on the title track. With a rumba flamenco number in 7/8 time signature the composition certainly has an underlying attitude and bite. Add the equally impressive “Vivir Libre” featuring Megadeth’s Marty Friedman to a montuno rhythm and you have the one two punch of impressive collaborations.
Needless to say the smoother and soother mid paced “Amor Perdido” featuring the Bucharest All Star Orchestra are perfectly sequenced for a timely change of pace and mood. Meanwhile, we transition to “Sunset Samba” featuring Jorge Strunz who brings to mind the heady days of Deodato. This is later followed with the toe tapping sway of “Cubalia Café” featuring Hewitt and Ardeshir Farah where there is magic in this magnificent merger of musical styles.
Russ Hewitt leaves us with his most unique and impressive collaboration to date by concluding the album with Tri Nguyen. This is where East merges with West featuring Nguyen’s Vietnamese zither work (sounds like a hybrid version of an Indian sitar and Japanese coda) fusing with Hewitt’s sublime guitar work. It is this very unique collaboration that reflects an artist willing to take chances seeking growth in his compositional capabilities. Needless to say Chasing Horizons shows an artist intentional in his convictions and sphere of creativity.
August 6, 2022
Review by Kathy Parsons