Kevin Pakulis Band: Shadesville (Self-Released) 

"Harder Faster Louder" opens this collection of 10 somewhat rowdy, occasionally bluesy and almost always introspective rockers.

It's hard not to be struck by how much of a guitar album this is, with Pakulis providing any number of different textures, sounds and rhythmic interplays between the other players and the songs. On tunes like "Heartache" and "Outa Hand," his command of the instrument is obvious, while the Allman Brothers-like jam in "Uncle Harlan" and the Stevie Ray Vaughn- soaked power chords of "Losin'" speak for themselves.

Ultimately, songwriters like to be remembered for their songs, and there are at least three that make this project special. "Dying by the Moment" is a medium-tempo story ballad where melody, lyric and presentation all come together in a way that transports the listener into the middle of a relationship. "50/50 Deal" is separated by its vocal hook—and because it's so damn fun to listen to. Finally, "All's Forgiven," a Latin-flavored acoustic gem, shows us what a kinder, gentler Pakulis is capable of, with his nylon string guitar supported by Duncan Stitt's synthesized accordion sounds.

Stitt, in fact, who plays keyboards throughout, seems more prominent on this recording than others, his organ work in particular adding layers of sonic colors and tone, while Ralph Gilmore, one of the Southwest's finest drummers, and Larry Lee Lerma on bass make for a rhythm section that is arguably second to none.

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