July-August, 2008 




By Barry Smiler

Jim Stubblefield Guitarra Exotica This is very nice stuff. Jim Stubblefield plays sizzling flamenco-infused guitar, with extra helpings of steam. Who knew that this level of intense, sexy energy could come from a nylon string acoustic guitar? But Stubblefield can play him some fine tunes, hey.

I have to confess, I didn't expect to like this as much as I do. The slickly packaged CD shows a hunky young blond rock & roll surfer-looking dude, and has a credit line for his makeup artist.

Makeup?? And it was recorded in Castaic. Castaic??

Well, looks can be deceiving, and as it turns out Jim Stubblefield really does have a thing or two to offer here. Yes, Guitarra Exotica's take on flamenco definitely has a rocker's sensibility, but living in LA, and exposed to all the great sounds available in this musical melting pot ... how could it not?

So, melt it does, like burning, swirling lava that just keeps rolling through, becoming more intense the closer you come to it.  There are lots of good flamenco musicians around. What makes Stubblefield stand out is the way he melds his excellent guitar skills (he's a GIT grad) with a solid feel for flamenco passions and modalities, and an LA urbanite's spot on sense of sound and pacing in this recording.

Stubblefield's sound here is well supported by Ruben Ramos and Randy Tico alternating on bass, Bryan Brock on percussion, and Novi Novog on viola. They provide a sensual grounding layer from which Stubblefield's skilled flamenco inventions can soar.

To hear some of Guitarra Exotica you can check out Jim Stubblefield's CDBaby page (CDBaby.com/cd/jstubblefield2) which has samples from all the cuts of this album. Alternatively, his My Space (www.myspace.com/jimstubblefield) page has less selections, but they are full cuts not excerpts. The MySpace page also has his tour schedule, which lists a couple of upcoming California dates. I couldn't find any video of Jim with his Guitarra Exotica band, but YouTube has a number of entries for him with Incendio, another of his flamenco-on-steroids projects.

This album is a great example of how genres evolve, merge, and inform each other. Stubblefield's amalgam of flamenco sounds and stylings, with pop pacing and support, is a winner. Definitely worth checking it out.

Barry Smiler is a former touring musician, retired concert producer, and all around great guy. In his doddering senescence he still retains a few opinions, and occasionally offers them in places like this.