Alibi V.19 No.33 • Aug 19-25, 2010 

Sonic Reducer

Felix y los Gatos Green Chile Gumbo (fylg.net)

On Green Chile Gumbo, the third release from Albuquerque’s Felix y los Gatos, just about every track is another good argument to stop worrying and thinking too much—just get up and dance.

Felix Peralta (guitar, vocals), Dave Barclay (button accordion), Tim McDaniel (bass) and Melvin Crisp (drums) know how to ride a groove, mixing zydeco, ranchera, merengue, Tejano, blues, jazz, and rock and roll into their own thing. McDaniel and Crisp hit right on the beat, Peralta just behind it, Barclay just ahead of it; and whatever rhythm they’re playing, it’s a masterful seduction of hips and feet. Peralta in particular seems to have an inner rhythmic gyroscope that finds just the right touch to keep things balanced no matter how tilted they might get.

First and foremost, this is a party band, but there’s more going on here than just hammering out dance beats. Barclay and Peralta, writing separately and together, learned the lessons Sam Cooke laid down: sharp details, a simple storyline and a melody that won’t quit. From the seductively slow blues of “Devil on Both Shoulders,” played with a confidence that need not hurry, to the zydejano title track, peppered with Burque references, the effect is synesthetic—the sights and smells of New Mexico swirling around your head.

The opening track, “Sha La La,” with its unforgettable “down the road I go” chorus, would no doubt be the summer anthem of 2010 if it got enough airplay—you can hear the gaps in the pavement slapping under the car’s tires, the wind in your face. Then there’s the rollicking “Hot Damn,” with Blues Traveler’s John Popper going apeshit on harmonica in a guest appearance over a train beat.

It’s not polished, but one thing’s for sure: You’re gonna feel a whole lot better after you hit “play.”