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Great musicianship at heart of charm

Caliente
Caliente
By Willie and Lobo

Mesa / Atlantic Records: 1997

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This review first appeared in the August 1, 1997 edition of the North County Times.

First off, you can't hold against them the fact that Robert James Waler wrote about Willie and Lobo in "Puerto Vallarto Squeeze" – or even that he issued a Willie and Lobo compilation as a musical companion to the book. One doesn't get to choose one's fans in this life, and besides, perhaps some of the "Bridges of Madison County" (which was also written by Waller) crowd ended up getting turned on to some good music out of the deal.

Willie and Lobo – Willie Royal and Wolfgang Lobo Fink – play a kind of American flamenco with huge Latin American streaks running through it. Willie plays violin, Lobo acoustic guitar. For this CD, the duo is joined on most cuts by a percussionist and bassist – which adds depth to the music without getting in the way of their free-wheeling interplay.

At times, the music here dips awfully close to New Age mood music – but the outstanding musicianship of the duo generally pulls it back from the brink of tedium.

And that's the heart of the charm of Willie and Lobo – these guys are ridiculously good instrumentalists, and having been together for a half-dozen albums and countless nights in clubs, they have a musical empathy that leads to some musical chases that make the car chases in "Streets of San Francisco" seem sissified by comparison.