The punishment here fits the crime - Guitara de Pasion is just what its title promises but a few more words are in order to understand why. Unlike the rumba gitana craze of popular easy-listening guitar music, this album is South-American in concept and execution, using cumbia, bambuquero, bolero, vallenato and joropo rhythms from Colombia and Venezuela at the hands of Colombian guitarist Carlos Quintero who apparently has three prior recordings on Moondo Records.
Quintero has an uncanny knack for melodies and a sketchy style that seems to omit certain notes for a kind of short hand that's extremely effective at conveying the musical message with a minimum of gestures but maximum impact. Gently pulsing Latin rhythm, country accordion and sparse piano accompaniment fill out the tunes which at times seem like down-tempo deconvoluted versions of Strunz & Farah material. The last album of this general flavor that went as deeply under my skin as this was Tiny Island on the famed Opus 3 label, a Scandinavian variant on the dreamy guitar essay that speaks straight to the heart and avoids all flash trying to impress.
Congas, bongos, timbales, guiro, laptop snare and guache are among the rhythm-keepin' noise makers here that create a swaying tropical jungle vibe, with Latin bass underpinnings above which the Colombian guitar paints the fractured melodies with their connecting blank spots of intermittent silences. Carlos elegantly distills the essence of Peruvian Quecua waltzes usually heard with Pan flutes and cavaquinhos but here played with an accordion. To create superior "easy listening" music is much harder than it would appear. Most doesn't hold up past the first listening and sometimes one doesn't even get to the end before predictable repetitiousness slams the door on any real satisfaction.
The special appeal of today's album is that it's survivably simple and beautiful well past the first encounter. It's impeccably crafted and its sketchy nature has the listener fill in different things depending on the mood. I'm usually most fond of complex, challenging music that makes significant demands on the listener's attention. Alas, there are occasions when what's really called for is lighter fare that sets a mood and allows you to do other things while enjoying the tunes. If your usual fare is bona fide high class, what to turn to for those occasions can be its own challenge - lite but still good. Well, Guitara de Pasion fits that bill to perfection, mainly because it's got a heart of gold wrapped in that suave exoticness from well south of the border.