It’s the thrill of a trill in the heat of the night: Dallas explorer of six-string spells weaves a tapestry rich with melodic detail.
For all the stylistic variety of Latino-tinged music, it tends to seem the same to the ears of those who exist outside this genre, and it takes a distinctive manner and discerning approach to lead the listener through separate strands of the idiom without sounding indulging or digressing into sterile territory. As an ambassador of Texas on the scene, Russ Hewitt is well-equipped to guide the uninitiated into the deceptively uncharted domain; more so, “Chasing Horizons” should find him push the frontiers of what’s been outlined on the two platters the guitarist issued earlier and bold enough to invite stellar friends to challenge his playing and, thus, improve his skills as both composer and performer. But above all, there’s an alluring passion that’s the album’s heart’s possessed with.
Not for nothing “Allende” starts Russ’ record via pseudo-alienating, yet ultimately endearing, passages of rumba flamenca where a riveting, percussively insistent tune will gradually emerge out of Hewitt’s toned-down delivery to go off on a tangent every time a filigreed lick is revealed in this tapestry, and while “Sunset Samba” and “Cubalia Café” see him trade solos with, respectively, Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah, who split their own duet for this, on a different shore, it’s the American soul-fire that drives all the finely nuanced melodies across the Atlantic. No wonder Russ was eager to experiment further and follow up on his instrumental dance with Larry Carlton on “Cielo Nocturno” in 2016 by calling out not only to Marty Friedman and Nuno Bettencourt, who weave contrasting, if equally spellbinding, acoustic threads into “Vivir Libre” and the album’s titular number which Walfredo Reyes Jr. and Efren Guzman’s soft grooves spice up, but also to Tri Nguyen whose Vietnamese zither on the sublime “Return To Simitai” can point to Hewitt’s next world-exploring adventures.
However, the majestic strings of Bucharest All-Star Orchestra on “Amor Perdido” are no less exiting as an exercise in elevating a single guitarist’s endeavor to celestial, symphonic heights, and the pop figures of the pellucidly tight-but-loose “Luminous” may attract even wider circles to fretboard runs of his nimble fingers. The outsiders in thrall to “Buena Vista Social Club” may, and must, flock to any stage that hosts Russ Hewitt’s concert – or, at least, chase the horizon of his records.