Malacara Blues Band – The Rookie | Album Review

Malacara Blues Band – The Rookie


CD: 8 Songs, 26 Minutes

Styles: Latin Blues, Salsa, All Original Songs

In my hometown, the number-one eatery is called La Potosina. It features all the highlights of what Mexican restaurants should have: colorful décor, jovial atmosphere, and authentic, tasty food. More spice at less price. That’s exactly what Xavi Malacara and his Blues Band serve up on their new release, entitled The Rookie but proving otherwise. This is no basement-to-Amazon entrée, but a zingy bowl of nachos for your ears. Featuring twangy salsa guitar and catchy Latin-infused beats, it’s peppy, entertaining, and a promise of even more scrumptious CDs to come.

On the flip side, Malacara’s lyrics are extremely hard to understand, but that means one must listen closely, and more than once, to each song. “Looking for love” is easy enough to decipher, but the opening verses of the title track will prove much more difficult. Some of the riffs are a bit basic, too. The upside here? Learn to salsa dance. Shut those lips and shake those hips, because this is an outdoor party album. Certain numbers are on the mellow side, so sip a margarita while savoring them. Perhaps the best quality of The Rookie is its real-deal Spanish flavor.

As it says in Spanish on his website (translated here), Malacara’s music melts into a rainbow, from darkness to dim light that reflects hope. He wallows in nostalgia and sinks into bitter optimism, a ime navigator battered by wounds. From Memphis to New Orleans, from the 1920s to the 1970s, from the plantations to the electricity of Chicago. The days of Little Walter, the nights of Dylan. Lorca’s poetry and Hopper’s landscapes.

Since 2013 with the Malacara & Wilson Band, Xavi has released three albums, all produced by Mario Cobo (The Nu Niles, Locos del Oeste). In Hopeless Blues (2015), the first compositions appear. They are a tribute to the best of Blues and Americana, or traditional roots music. In 2017 they presented Summer Camp Blues. The original lyrics treat love like a battlefield. In May 2019 they published a new album, Miles Down Blues, a journey that transits between blues and folk. They made their debut at the Cerdanyola International Blues Festival on the central stage, and beat the best band of the moment – the Nick Moss Band, nonetheless! – at the now defunct Rocksound in Barcelona, and premiered in the legendary Jamboree Hall with an incredible concert on January 1, 2020.

The three best songs on this CD are the opener, “Grave of Secrets,” and the all-Spanish “Ansiedad” (“Anxiety”). “The Rookie” and “Anxiety” are like bookends, similar in tone and theme: lost love. “Grave of Secrets” is a scorcher, forsaking salsa guitar for the rip-roaring blues variety. It’s also the most danceable, at least in terms of songs that beg for a partner. “Darling, darling, darling,” Xavi sings, the word a plea instead of an affectionate nickname. “Some love is too much. I’m a lonely man.” Play some air guitar during the solo, or better yet, real guitar.

The Rookie is neither a pure blues album nor a full-course meal. As I said earlier, it’s more like the nacho bowl that you get before your massive burrito and taco platter. Fill up on it while you can!

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