The extraordinary success in recent years of artists such as Ottmar Liebert, Jesse Cook and Strunz and Farah has demonstrated the ongoing love affair audiences have for flamenco-inspired guitar and the exotic, exploratory gypsy soul that lies beneath its infectious rhythms and gentle grace. New Mexico native Lorenzo Dominguez has played every style of music from classical and blues to R&B and rock, yet when it came for him to commit to a solo career, he chose to follow the path closest to his heritage, heart and soul. The title of his latest recording, Alma Gitano, (Spanish for gypsy soul) tells us all we need to know about that unbridled lifelong passion and his rediscovery of his wondrous heritage.
"I call it gypsy soul because that is what I have, where I live and the way I conduct my life, the romantic core of who I am," says Dominguez, whose well-received 1996 debut, Campana, featured similar guitar stylings supporting mainly vocal tracks.
"These are songs of love, loss and hope, reflecting the music of my heart, completely unfabricated and dedicated to the exciting raw energy that comes out of pure flamenco music."
Dominguez only became fascinated with flamenco music after his older brother brought some authentic recordings back from a visit to Spain. "I was always attracted to the spontaneous nature of the music, combined with its interesting complexities," he says. "You never stop learning. The music on Alma Gitano is basically the sum total of all I have learned, combined with my love for the Gipsy Kings. I know it's not flamenco in the purest sense. I draw on elements such as Middle Eastern music, classical, pop and even jazz. Basically, I start with a rhythm scheme and build a melody from there.
Dominguez lays bare his soul beginning with the exhilarating gallop down "Camino de Oro", which features the guitarist's soaring vocalizations. He shows his love for Middle Eastern influences with a lush violin harmony on the moody, seductive title track before easing into the gentle caress of the romantic "Lumbrera". The title of "Escorpion" perfectly reflects the soulful tune's sly, crafty and melodic movements, while the folksy "Mirando te Dormir" recalls the powerful Spanish vocals Dominguez featured on his first recording. As befits a song about a challenging love affair, "Novia" moves in an instant from a gentle classical caress to a more aggressive stance. Dominguez utilizes vocals again on the fiery, anthemic guitar/percussion jam "Buleria a Dios" (with Bill Mudd playing a wide variety of rhythmic instruments), and keeps up the zealous pace on the energetic "Tentacion." The set closes with three pieces which speak to the thoughtful eloquence of the balladry of his genre - "Vela Luz" (Candle Light), "Chimayo" and "Prenda de Amor," whose title translated as "Token of Love," neatly sums up Dominguez' entire approach.
The Albuquerque born and raised Lorenzo Dominguez began playing the violin at age nine, switching to guitar a few years later and studying privately a variety of styles. Influenced early on by great bluesmen such as Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and John Mayall, through his later love for classic rockers such as Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, Dominguez clearly focused on a career in pop and rock music. By the time he was 17, he was actively performing in nightclubs around his hometown.
Dominguez took to touring in his later teens, relocating first to Denver and then to Dallas, where he served as the local endorsee for Gibson Guitars. Gibson also sent him on the road where he demonstrated their guitars from Los Angeles to New Orleans.
In 1987, Dominguez - still seeking his own niche - joined the retro rock band The Strawberry Zots, who released a self-produced album and were signed to RCA. The Zots received positive reviews in People, Billboard and Entertainment Weekly and emerged as a strong force on college radio. Their Top Ten hit, "Get Me To The World On Time," helped the group land several international record deals and due to their impressive record sales and massive international exposure, the Zots became underground superstars.
By the mid-1990's, however, Dominguez found himself burned out on the pop/rock scene and he returned to Albuquerque where he once began to study flamenco, eventually writing and recording Campana for his own Sevilla Records label. Campana garnered considerable airplay on over 30 stations nationally and sold quite respectfully. This reception convinced Dominguez that he had finally found his musical center, and he went on to record Alma Gitano in 1997.
"Even while I was trying out and playing every style under the sun, flamenco music was always in the background, itching at my soul," says the guitarist. "It was just a matter of my taking the time to put other things aside and study and pursue it to its logical conclusion."
The glorious and spiritual blend of tender mercies and exotic rhythms of Alma Gitano are proof that Lorenzo Dominguez is on somewhat of a divinely chosen path. The cover art on the CD features an image of candles and family photographs taken on the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), on which family members paid tribute to Dominguez's late father. His music pays a similar and passionate homage to the heritage that once strayed from Dominguez' heart, but which is now restored, fresh and alive for our listening enjoyment.
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