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Justin Valdez: Deuce-Seven Off Suit (Los Muertos)


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Last Call Brawlers guitarist Justin Valdez goes solo, indulging in revved-up Tex-Mex, boisterous country punk and humorous lyrics that occasionally verge on the inappropriate. Depending on your point of view, these might include culturally specific tunes such as "Ya-Ta-Hey," "Yaqui Sieras," "Custer's Last (One Night) Stand" and "Bean Dip for Two."

The best cuts are those that allow Valdez to showcase his tight, lean guitar-playing: the deep, baritone-sounding leads on "Little by Little" and the choogling rockabilly of "She." On "In the Van," punctuated by boisterous off-key gang vocals, he trades reverb-drenched licks with saxophonist David Clark. That tune draws on classic musical references such as "Wooly Bully" and "Whittier Blvd.," though it doesn't reach either song's pioneering levels of frenzy.

Valdez doesn't claim to be a deep satirist. In the process of lamenting the state of punk rock, country pop, Top 40 and TV singing contests on "Whatever Happened to Music?" he describes his own song as "simple and corny." Sometimes his songwriting slips from sly comedy to unashamed novelty.

He doesn't take himself too seriously, as evidenced by that faux cornpone-cum-Elvis drawl in which he usually sings. He frames the opening track with applause and bar chatter, as if he were a stand-up comedian in a nightclub, and the closer is an actual joke with strummed guitar.

Whether on the moody heartache of "La Llorona" or the bouncy Tejano-style interpretation of Freddy Fender's "Wild Side of Life," Valdez seems to be wholly enjoying himself. The vibe is infectious.


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