The Spanish guitar has ever been a source of fascination, as have latinate modes like flamenco. You can't be a dilletante and play flamenco, nor can you possess anything less than highly skilled nimble fingers and hope to distinguish yourself playing Spanish guitar. The style has seen quite a few rock and jazz advocates, all of them daunting musicians—Alan Shacklock with Babe Ruth, Al DiMeola in his early solo ventures, a number of escapades in progrock, and so on—but the prime exponents inevitably seem to be ethnically kindred: Carlos Santana, Paco de Lucia, etc. Thus, it will come as no surprise when I tell you that the Del Castillo Bros., Rick and Mark, are the latest harbingers of an elder modus brought to new life while inspissating several south of the border styles (ranchero, norteno, and other inflections) but remaining remarkably faithful to hallowed antecedents.
Make no mistake, these guys are maestros, so adept that when Gibson decided to revivify their Les Paul line in 2008, the brothers were two of only six fretbenders chosen for the honors as representatives. More, if you saw the films Once Upon a Time in Mexico (great flick!), Sin City, Kill Bill, Vol. II, and several others, you've already heard the band and probably not even known it, as Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are big fans. Rolling Stone, in its usual bumbling way, compared the gents to "Eddie van Halen fronting early Santana with an assist from the Gipsy Kings". No, no, no, the Del Castillos are beyond Halen in several ways, as good as he is. Choose any cut here, and you'll soon be agreeing—or just listen to the opening track, Lumbres de Babylon, and be stunned. Los Bros Castillo are death-defying in their ministrations.
World-renowned German opera diva Anna Maria Kaufman duets with lead singer Alex Ruiz in closing the first disc (there's a bonus DVD in this release), and, on that bonus, the band includes takes on the Doobie Bros Listen to the Music, the chestnut What a Wonderful World, and George Harrison's While my Guitar Gently Weeps, the lattermost a 9-minute tour de force shred fest that Monte Montgomery adds a third axe to…and this cat's as amazing as the Castillos. Though his customary range is elsewhere, more than once, Ruiz's voice reminded me of Banco del Mutuo Soccorso's Francesco di Giacomo, and the band itself is more than a little progressive, pushing past all kinds of frontiers while cleaving to muscular discipline and intelligent compositions morphing with grace and determination.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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