ELJURI – La Lucha (2016 / Manovill)
From the gloriously psychedelic opening cut, “La Lucha”, it’s extremely obvious why Eljuri (Cecelia Villar Eljuri) has been crowned by many estimables as “Carlita”, a reference to Carlos Santana (“Carlito”). Her wont is heavily and pronouncedly latinate, reveling in refrains standardly south of the border near and far, but she sure as hell understands rock and roll down to the last G-clef and distortion pedal. That track instantly illustrates the woman’s many compositional and playing prowesses, a polymath whose abilities extend in all directions. Those horns you hear? They’re not horns, they’re midi-brass expertly and tastily employed by Eljuri. That goes for the percussives and drums as well, all of them electronic but sounding as from discerning human hands. Then there’s her wielding of all keyboards…save for a few cuts where Steve Sandberg joins in.
Eljuri writes every cut, three co-written, and sings as well, but her ace card is that musical penmanship and then the soaring guitar sitting so damned comfortably in her hands, an instrument that chants, roars, warps, whispers, cozens, and dances all around the studio. The delicious extended solo in “Nunca Volvere” brings back memories of the 70s: UFO, Scorpions, Automatic Man, and other cherished mainstays. Not a measure goes by but that she has it nailed, a wunderkind that even shredders are going to have to reckon with – not that Eljuri’s a chops-mistress as such, she eschews that sort of thing, but every note and chord is golden. I can point to a whole lot of fretburners who wish they could be that gravitious when not crippling themselves in ceaseless flurries.
Not a cut is less than danceable, interesting, and engaging, but, man o man, the listener just hungers for more each time she steps aside from the songs and rrrrrrrips. She may not be a DiMeola, but her lines sizzle nonetheless. La Lucha is going to appeal to a very wide swath of the market: latin, rock, jazz, World, etc. Eljuri’s life has been all about music. She was playing CBGBs in her teens, and she’s famed for disappearing for days at a time, holed up in her studio, trying everything under the sun to expand her repertoire. Her roots are in the Cuban tres, a three-course chordophone (look it up, y’all!), but she arrives from a Lebanese background as well, on her mom’s side (also a singer, while her dad was an actor, both of them serious artists), and one hears squibs of exotica there as well.
Someone needs to sign this woman to a major label before groups like Los Lobos come hunting around with “Yo, girl, you GOT it!” and beat them to the punch. I don’t worry about that either way, though, as this stripe of musical work is indomitable, and headhunters will be flocking to her door rather than the other way around. If not, then the industry’s worse captained than even I’d imagined.