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Rich Hopkins and Luminarios

From the salvo of chiming, Byrdsian guitar that begins this CD, it's clear where Rich Hopkins is coming from. After several albums with Luminarios, he's stayed true to that familiar Americana rock groove that sprung from the Sonoran Desert in the later decades of the 20th century.

The latest version of Hopkins' backing band seems to consist of bassist-vocalist Anna Rosales, guitarist Adrian Esparza and drummer Jim Howell. It's common with this group, though, for the personnel to ebb and flow. A variety of local talent played on the tracks.

Rosales does a nice job of singing duets and harmonies with Hopkins, bringing some "real" vocals to the table. Their angry give-and-take repartee on "Hurt You" is especially moving. Hopkins' robust guitar pyrotechnics often take the lead; he can shred with the best of them. But also worthy of praise are Esparza's 12-string playing on "Nuthin' You Can Do" and Stefan George's lap steel on "Mexican Sky."

Hopkins is probably the first to admit he's not the best singer on the planet, but he more confidently carries melodies than on past recordings. The best cuts are "The Horse I Rode in On (and Fell Off)," "Voices" and "Draggin'," all of which combine rough-and-tumble garage psychedelia and a touch of twang with bold arena-rock moves. A "bonus track" cover of Neil Young's "Mr. Soul" allows Hopkins to pay homage to one of his most significant influences.

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