CD Review: Lance Lopez “Handmade Music”

Lance Lopez

Handmade Music (MIG Music)

 by Devon Wendell

Texas based blues six stringer Lance Lopez has already earned legendary status among his peers and mentors: B.B. King, Billy F. Gibbons, and Johnny Winter, to name a few. Before becoming front-man of his own band, Lopez also played with blues and soul giants Johnny Taylor, Lucky Peterson, and The Buddy Miles Express.

Lance Lopez

Lopez’s latest CD, Handmade Music is his second project with acclaimed producer Jim Gaines, following the critically acclaimed Salvation At Sundown.

Gaines’s expertise is helping some of the greatest rock/blues guitarists in the world to shine on record. Gaines has produced albums for Albert Collins, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Carlos Santana, and Buddy Guy.  So working with Lopez makes perfect sense.

. Lopez commented on his association with Gaines; “His work with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Carlos Santana alone speaks huge volumes. I knew when it came time for the next chapter of my catalog that Jim needed to be involved.”

Handmade Music was recorded at Ardent Studio in Memphis TN, which was made famous by classic rock, blues influenced pioneers such as Led-Zepelin, ZZ Top, George Thorogood, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and The Allman Brothers.

“Come Back Home,” “Hard Time,” and “Your Love” are no-nonsense blends of down-home Texas blues with fun Southern rock.  Lopez’s guitar solos are raw and technical without losing the potent soul of the blues.  Even with Lopez’s apparent influences — Albert King, Billy F. Gibbons and Jimi Hendrix — his piercing, razor sharp tone and fluid phrasing are refreshingly unique.

Lopez also proves to be an exceptionally vocalist.  His smoky, gravely voice on the r&b flavored “Dream Away,” and “Letters,” rivals the power of his guitar pyrotechnics.

Lopez is also one of the finest composers of blues-driven rock.  His poignant “Let Go” and Santana-esque instrumental “Vaya Con Dios” are filled with sophisticated layers of guitar harmonies.  The driving guitar riffs of Lopez’s version of Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues” is more reminiscent of Cream or Led-Zeppelin than the traditional blues style of Johnson.

There is a sense of joy and fun throughout this recording. The loose, house rocking boogie of “Can You Feel It” is certainly proof of that with its ZZ Top feel.

The low-down, dirty 12 bar blues of “Lowdown Ways” is easily an album highlight. Here, Lopez shows his love for blues guitar fathers Albert Collins, Albert King, Buddy Guy, with dashes of Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck thrown in for good measure.

Lopez’s guitar playing on Handmade Music is filled with hammer-ons and lightning-fast trills which bring to mind a heavy metal shredder like Steve Vai rather than the economical blues approach of, say, B.B. King.  His flashy style might make the most stubborn blues purist cringe, but it’s bound to get the attention of fellow guitarists of all learning levels.  Although more than competent, Lopez’s backing band — Chris Gipson, bass and drummer Jimmy Dereta — could have added more fire to the album to match that of their band leader.

With this recording, Lopez once again proves that he is one of the most creative and skilled musicians in the world of blues and rock.

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