Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Devil is in the Details

Antonio Estevan Huerta's last album, "Your Shrine" was a sweeping amalgam of feel and energy. I know because I declared it as such right here on "Last Will".

I can't describe how refreshing it was to feel such emotion packed into so many songs no matter the tempo.

On "Your Shrine" AEH wore his heart on his sleeves.

On his latest, the upcoming platter "The Devil You Know", he's rolling them up.

Methinks Huerta has emotion to spare, so make no mistake, everything he does will contain a lot of it. But "Devil" also has edge, and in spades.

It's darker, it's a bit leaner, and a lot tougher.

Not many recording artists have the ability to bare their souls and do it with a ton of hooks. Just look as far back as Roger Waters and as recently as Paul Westerberg. Soul spilling isn't easy when you want to be catchy too. It's tough. Huerta does it well, and does it often.

You can smell influences here, but Antonio is himself musically, and lyrically, he's a poet.

"Motorcycle", the excellent opener, reminds me vaguely of The Cure at the outset, before revving up (pun intended) into some very angry and disarming (but not remotely wrong as the record unspools) imagery and message sending.


The devil doesn't either as he's being spoken to on "Her Stars (The Devil Song)", a banging second track. Written on travelling wheels from Prague (during a marathon), to Iceland, back to Paris, it eventually became concrete in Brooklyn. "Her Stars" is obviously a manifesto...the devil can take a lot from you, but the heart is everlasting and possessive. Even Satan can't take what really belongs to you inside. (Huerta's lyrics can be personal on many levels, and vague enough to interpret as your own. I love to think of the content of this song as my own.)

The devil is a bit of a theme on this record, and Huerta is not a stranger to thematic elements. From rats and their tracks, to pigeons and paradise, to the morningstar himself, Huerta likes underlaying a string through his lyrics. In an upcoming interview I will ask Antonio about his thematic lyrical nature, because, frankly, "I Gots To Know".

Huerta's voice, which has always been good, is a flowing, reaching, and comfortable swimmer on this album. His band is strong and confident, a machine let loose to pound this material out efficiently and with extreme prejudice. Guitar and bass, both raw and achingly gentle, drums that flash just enough, are here and not to be forgotten or messed with.

"Scribble" and "You Can Be a Part of This" are emotion-laden mid-tempo rockers extending out to say something important and they succeed with a flourish. "You Can" is downright gripping. I listened to "Devil" in my car almost exclusively in and around Dallas, Texas, and that track especially will bring attention to all your surroundings. It could easily and successfully fit on any great classic rock album, but does not feel out of place one bit today.

"Esto Que Hacemos" is a gorgeous ballad sung entirely in Spanish, that is both hypnotic, relaxing, and very melancholy.....shades of "Shrine's" "Horses", but with more intensity...

"The Devil You Know", the title track, is easily the catchiest cut on the record, and will stick in your head for days, so prepare yourself for that. It's a good thing.

"Let it Go" and "Go Home" are nice finishers to a very strong, but suprisingly dark album from Antonio Estevan Huerta. He's been a sharp songwriter with or without collaboration, and a fine lyricist always, but you get the feeling on the third try, he's been set loose here....

Antonio has raised Cain with "The Devil You Know".

The hooks and the choruses are there, as you'd expect from him, but this time there's something, perhaps a New Jersey "Darkness on the Edge of Town" lying under the surface, waiting to be let out. Demons being shaken off his back, or perhaps a "Devil".

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