Take a stay-cation to a tropical beach with Azul. This is fiery, hip-wiggling Latino guitar music at its best. Azul means ‘blue’ in Spanish, and refers to the sky and the luscious turquoise waters on the shores of the Caribbean islands and the Gulf Coast. An ensemble of talented international musicians give the album its world-music creds.

This album has plenty of Latin-style acoustic guitar-playing but also includes electric guitar on a few tracks as well as some singing. Track 2: Cha Cha Cha – well, the title says it all. This is a remedy for the winter blues for folks with gloomy weather, and a joyful incentive for house-cleaning chores (works for me!).

The tunes bounce from fiesta-time to siesta-time. Track 3: Be My Girl is a kick-back siesta ballad. The simple but effective vocals are a bit of salsa on the musical tortilla. Track 4: Lazy Sunday and Track 5: Surrender To Me are gorgeous romantic instrumentals, my favorites on the album.

Track 7: Hechicera features a Spanish-language lyric and a fully-functional south of the border rhythm section. Electric guitar slides into the break and makes the hair on your neck stand up. Yum. All the testosterone just got sucked out of the room. Track 9: Dance of the Shaman incorporates wood flute and turns this into a deeply mystical bit of music.

Linstead is in top form with sizzling guitar riffs up and down the neck. The production values are stellar and the ensemble sound is top-flight. This album gets a high Coven Renegade Vehicle rating – great listening, awesome songs, nice variety of rhythms, textures, instrumental/vocal pieces performed with flawless technique.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Artist: Johanes Linstead
12 tracks, 51:49 minutes