In a year jam-packed with roots records from younger artists, it seems appropriate that one more release comes out in time to be included in the 2011 bumper crop. In this case, the debut album from South Texas-based blues guitarist/singer Roy Trevino, produced by Grammy-winner Jim Gaines, is full of ambition if not always high-flying results.
Recording the album in studios in Nashville, Austin, and Pharr, Texas, Trevino lined up a talented back-up band for its sessions including Chris Maresh (bass), David Boyle (keyboards), and J.J. Johnson (drums). The rather short collection includes nine original compositions and one nod to Bob Marley in the reggae-flavored “Up Yourself.” That track is typical of the offerings in that Trevino clearly is a performer of many interests with a wide range of musical influences. That pays off in the performances of the full band, if not all the songs they are playing.
The core of Trevino’s style is Texas blues, as shown on the opener, “Gloria,” a song Trevino claims was his attempt to write a “blues mass.” “The Boy Can Play,” in the grand blues tradition of tributes to those who came before, includes Trevino’s list of the mentors he admires. Then Trevino goes bilingual with English and Spanish lyrics for the very Santana-inspired “Sin Ella” where his fluid electric-guitar work makes a strong showing. His two languages also feature in “La Luna,” a song composed on South Padre Island, the first time he worked with a nylon-string acoustic guitar. Speaking of island music, “Trinidad” is an instrumental with jazz touches, perhaps the most atypical sample of what Trevino can do on six strings.
The collection doesn’t come close to any rocking blues except for “Going Away” where the tempo is as hot as Trevino gets before settling down again for the album’s last number, “Little Girl,” a gentle tune for and about a little girl whose daddy has to leave to go on the road again. Then, the whirlwind tour is all over and listeners may be forgiven for being uncertain where they’ve been.
It’s clear Roy Trevino is no slouch on the guitar, especially the slide variety. It’s obvious he’s capable of working in a variety of genres. One can hear this range of settings as either a demonstration of versatility or an attempt to touch all the bases. Listening to the vocals and compositions, I can’t help but think Trevino could thrive quite nicely in a band with another full-time singer and perhaps another songwriting collaborator. In a crowded field of blues singers and performers, it takes something very special to stand out from the pack. In this case, we get admirable intentions and glimpses of an imaginative personality that could very well jump to another level in a sophomore effort.