Sunday, November 20, 2016

Gonzalo Bergara – Zalos Blues | Album Review

Gonzalo Bergara – Zalo’s Blues

Self Release

12 tracks / 37:26

Gonzalo Bergara’s latest album, Zalo’s Blues, was really not what I was expecting to hear from him. You see, this Argentinian guitarist and bandleader made a name for himself as an acoustic Gypsy Jazz guitarist, and he is probably one of the best players of this genre in the world. He has received much respect for this work from the glossy guitar magazines, but who would have thought that he would do an electric blues album, and actually do all of the singing too?

Well, Gonzalo plugged in, stepped up to the microphone, and it all worked out well! Bergara’s guitar skills translated well to the electric, and Zalo’s Blues is a killer album. Gonzalo wrote eleven of the dozen tracks on this disc, and he was joined in the studio by bassist Mariano D’Andrea and drummer Maximiliano Bergara. Are they related? Who knows?

The first song in the trio’s set is “Drawback,” an uptempo instrumental that is sort of a jazzy shuffle. Gonzalo sets the stage here by starting out strong, and he proves that he has no problems at all with his electric guitar technique. Bergara burns through quite a few instrumentals on this disc, including the Jeff Beck-esque “Dirty Socks,” the funky jazz of “Been Runnin’,” the heavy blues rock of “Levi,” and the pretty ballad, “Ines.” On all of these songs, Mariano and Maximiliano do a stout job of laying down the groove and they are as tight of a backline as anyone could hope to play with.

Gonzalo also sings on most of the tracks, and his voice is good, though maybe a bit limited in range. Bergara’s guitar covers a lot of genres here, and one of my favorite tunes is “Gonna Go” a wild piece of country roadhouse music that provides Zalo with the opportunity to do his best Albert Lee impression. He does not disappoint the listener, as he is one mean guitar-picking machine. Another standout piece is “Woosh, ” a song that was recorded in Los Angeles in 2003, and this hard-rocking song features Vince Bilbro on bass and Michael Partlow on drums. This song has a complex build, and it takes more than one listen to hear everything that is going on – this is amazing stuff!

The lone cover is Jimmy Reed’s “You Don't Have to Go,” and after sampling Reed’s intro, the band provides an extra-heavy take on this classic tune from 1954. Gonzalo does a fabulous job of howling out the distorted vocals as Maximiliano beats his snare drum to death -- these fellows really know how to rock…

Zalo’s Blues is not a very long album, and before 40 minutes have gone by it is all over. I think it is a real winner and I am not alone: none other than Charlie Baty and Junior Watson both have high praise for Gonzalo Bergara’s work. Anybody that loves guitar music will dig this one, so why don't you check it out for yourself and let me know what you think?

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