The music on this album, Hands, featuring stellar turns primarily by Spanish guitarist, Pepe Habichuela and British-born bassist, Dave Holland is, quite simply, one of the most captivating on record. It is completely an alternative to style, to mere virtuosity to angelic grace and charm, as dictated by a muse. This music is the epitome of the darkly beautiful magnetism of duende. The music comes not from the hands and the fingers of the musicians, but rather from the innermost being; from the very soul of the artist. It aims its hypnotic corkscrew at the mind’s eye, aiming myriad arrows of unbridled and primeval passion with every turn of the screw. The heart of the listener is set on fire, unwittingly as the music transforms him or her into something rare and pliable for the artist to toy with—which he does, more so by Habichuela than by Holland, but by both, nevertheless.
And then of course, there are the other members of the Carmona clan (to which Pepe Habichuela belongs), his son and guitarist, Josemi Carmona, his nephews—guitarist, Carlos Carmona and cajon, player and percussionist, Juan Carmona—together with percussionist and cajon player, Pirañ, whose credits include that eternal album, Lagrimas Negras which he recorded with the great Cuban pianist, Bebo Valdés and Spanish vocalist, Diego el Cigala. Holland wrote in a space for these percussionists to shine all too briefly on his composition, “The Whirling Dervishes” a startling composition that unravels with blithe spirit and an unquenchable fire that swirls majestically from end to end. All three musicians glow dark and strong again on “Joyride” the second and last composition by the bassist.
Most of the music is dedicated to the soulful magic of the Spain of the Carmona clan and it is this music that welcomes Holland as if through a rite of passage as he twists and turns, with whorls of notes played across the melody of the cry of the trees that begat the wood for the guitars. Holland is almost alone in his gut-wrenching harmonies. His solos may be played on an undulating bass line, but they moan and wail with the melodies of the songs. He is plaintive in the fandango de Huelva that is “Hands” and almost vocal on the tango, “Subi La Cuesta” then mightily expressive on a song written by him by Habichuela, “My Friend Dave.” The guitarist is spectacular throughout. He weeps for a legend on “Camaron,” a chart about the legendary flamenco singer who personified the art of duende. Habichuela is primal, a sort of medieval apothecary of music who is driven by his singular wood spirit, perhaps the one that abides in his guitar and one that sings through the trills and rapid glissandos that flash across the musical firmament as the guitarist’s fingers fly across the fret board.
But make no mistake, this is Pepe Habichuela’s album. It is the guitarist who is the undying source of magic that courses through the music making the album unforgettable.
Tracks: Hands (Fandango De Huelva); Subi La Cuesta (Tangos); Camaron (Taranta); The Whirling Dervish; Yesqueros (Media Granaina); El Ritmo Me Lleva (Rumba); Bailaor (Seguiriya Cabal); Joyride; Puente Quebrao (Buleria); My Friend Dave (Solea).
Personnel: Dave Holland: bass; Pepe Habichuela: guitar; Josemi Carmona: guitar; Carlos Carmona: guitar; Israel Porrina (Pirañ): cajó and percussion; Juan Carmona: cajó and percussion.
Label: Dare2 Records