“Damn right I have the blues,” proclaims singer/songwriter/guitarist Felix Peralta in a burst of enthusiasm about his new, almost solo CD, Gato Malo, Acoustic Blues for the Grave, Volume 1. The front man for Felix y Los Gatos, Peralta is better known for the consistently upbeat dance music that band pumps out. But he has another side, one he’s been more in touch with recently.
“I’ve been writing some songs throughout the summer, just through issues of relationships changing for me in the last couple of months,” says Peralta. “It’s changed my outlook, and I’m feeling a little bit more dark and bluesy.”
So along came the folks at Santa Fe’s Frogville Records—engineer Bill Palmer and founder John Treadwell—who offered Peralta a couple of free days in the studio, and he figured the time was right. “I like the happy stuff I do with the Gatos,” he says, “but I want to show the other side of my songwriting.”
That side, judging from a couple of sample tracks, has roots in the raw country blues of classic artists like Robert Johnson and Son House, as well as the work of contemporary Irish bluesman Rory Gallagher. Gato Malo features several straight blues numbers, and Peralta has pretty much followed the old-timers’ lead with a down-home, one-take-and-done recording approach. Except for a couple of tracks that include bassist Johny Broomdust, it’s just Peralta’s voice and guitar—and an ominous-sounding slide made from an old piece of copper he found at a construction site. “Raw. I love it,” he says.
Peralta also features some tunes that pay homage to his favorite contemporary songwriters. For example, “Cheap Guitar and a Full Tank of Gas” (“a finger-picking kind of thing,” he says) gives a nod to Greg Brown. “I Don’t Drink Vodka No More” acknowledges the influence of Townes Van Zandt. Another finger-picking tune, the poignant “Ain’t Easier,” provides a stunning highlight. Written after Peralta’s dad passed away, the song captures a life-changing moment of honest self-assessment, delivered with an open, disarming simplicity.
Peralta will debut his darker side at the Gato Malo CD release party at Monte Vista Fire Station on Wednesday, Dec. 15. Singer/dancer/drummer Facinet Bangoura, recently arrived in Albuquerque from Guinea, will get things going with African music and dance. “I’m kind of going back to the roots of the blues with him starting it off,” says Peralta.
Then, three local bluesmen— Chris Dracup, Darin Goldston and Joe “Daddy” Warner—will join Peralta for a blues summit, swapping songs and licks for the remainder of the night. “These guys never get to play together,” says Peralta, who, solo project or not, is clearly looking forward to the jam.