ON PAPER, A daunting concept: to combine the Spanish fire of flamenco guitar with the atmospheric etherealness of Native American flute without watering down either, or having one overshadow the other. In execution, a rousing success. Santa Fe guitarist Ruben Romero joins forces with Arizonans Robert Tree Cody (flute, vocals) and Tony Redhouse (percussion) and, along with noted session bassist John Murray, crafts a memorable set whose emotive impact hinges on each player's reading of one another's sensibilities. There's no holding back or worrying about stepping on one another's toes here, simply a jazz ensemble-like empathy and intuition. This is demonstrated no more clearly than on "Suenos de Los Moros" ("Dreams of the Moors") in which Romero initializes the tune with a brusquely strummed flourish, then Cody enters to state the tune's main melodic theme. Surprisingly, Cody seems to exit while Romero leads the attack as Redhouse (the ensemble's secret weapon) kicks up an impressive amount of dust on his African percussion. Ever so subtly, Cody slips back into the fold, winnowing up through the mix to join Romero for a sensual duet in the coda-like final segment, the pair going out on the exact flourish which opened the song. And that's just one complex composition of 13. The music on the album is unflaggingly romantic, and on multiple levels; it conveys a sense of cinematic urgency, a dancer's passion (but of course), and more than a hint of otherworldly exotica. At the same time, it's relaxing, almost meditational at times -- but not "New Age" in the pejorative sense.
Canyon Records should be commended for commissioning this fusion experiment. The label has consistently looked for ways to expand the contemporary notion of what Native American music "should" be while simultaneously championing the traditional forms. The label maintains a retail operation in downtown Phoenix (4143 N. 16th St.) that's well-worth investigating. Likewise, access their mail order service at www.canyonrecords.com. I've always found the folks there to be friendly and helpful. -- Fred Mills
THE CATHETERS PROBABLY won't agree, but you can't help imagining them as the male gender response to the Donnas. The all-vixen teenage punk rock outfit has been garnering tons of press because of a crotch hardening tough-as-nails Joan Jett-meets-Lolita baby doll appearance and their amazing accomplishments with just two hyper-speed power chords. But unlike the Donnas, who have a mighty publicity war machine shoving them upon an unsuspecting public and lascivious good looks working for them, the Catheters (like Memphis teenage lobotomies the Reatards) are just five not-so-handsome juvenile delinquents who rock like the caffeine-stoked offspring of Jett and the Runaways. Dream of their pubescent fathers Angus Young of AC/DC sharing the stage with Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys and the '70s cock rock explosion that detonates between their legs keeps getting bigger, nastier and dirtier as time passes. These Jolt-gulping hoodlums could care less about how well-mannered and geek-like they appear all wearing faux-ominous black T-shirts because the obliterating rampage they extract from their bloodletting instrumentation transcends all those superficial qualities the Donnas pride themselves on. Visually the Catheters would go unnoticed at the high school prom, but the lyrical hand grenades they lob at the listener speak volumes. Teenage angst never sounded so desperate and commanding both at once. Check out these terminal teenage song titles for anxiety-driven verification: "Teenage Trash," "Treat Me Like You Should," "Do What I Want," "The Kids Know How To Rock." Sorry honey, the boy scouts you once knew and loved have left the premises. Bring on the booze, dope and chicks, mommy's little schoolboys have all grown up. Just ask Angus and Cheetah for their feedback. -- Ron Bally
THIS THREE-PIECE combo with dual vocals and a singular urge to charm the capri pants off your girlfriend delivers a rockin' cocktail of unrepentant pop vocals and buzzsaw guitars as if the first albums of the Beatles and the Ramones were their Old and New Testament. From the church pew lust of "Denise, Denise" to the doo wop yearning of "My Sweet Valentine," there's not a sour apple in the bucket. It's nice to see a pop-punk band that looks to '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll for inspiration instead of the Lookout Records catalogue. They throw some curve balls with the hardcore goof "Angel Saw Reggie's Dick" and the surf instrumental "Half Pipe," but mostly these tow-headed youngsters stick to what they do best: giddy, infectious tunes played with great, big balls. -- Greg Petix