Music » Rhythm & Views

Rich Hopkins and Luminarios: El Otro Lado/The Other Side (San Jacinto)

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Most Tucson music fans know what to expect from this longtime local act—sun-scorched Sonoran garage rock, with tinges of Latin American music—but Hopkins and company do it as well as ever on their latest disc.

Throughout, Hopkins doesn't sing so much as rhythmically speak—in the tradition of Lou Reed and Steve Wynn—which gives his songs an endearing, quasi-hipster informality. Often, the lyrics only consist of a couple of verses before the guitarist lets loose with his trademark nitro-burning leads. Balanc-ing out the energy is guitarist-singer Lisa Novak, who contributes sultry, country-rock-style harmonies, backing vocals and duets. She even takes the lead on a song titled "Lou Reed."

The album's centerpiece is the seven-minute "Breathe In, Breathe Out," a dreamy, psychedelic blues that traces its protagonist's journey from hard-partying young man to spiritually balanced grown-up. Naturally, there are a few tunes, most notably the opener "Love Is a Muse" and "Good Intentions," on which Hopkins and the band prove their distinct love of classic Byrdsian pop.

The group also shows evidence of artistic ambition, such as with the three-part "El Otro Lado Suite," the addition of guest guitarists and trumpet-playing by ringer Javier Gamez. A little more eccentric is "Guajira," a bilingual apologia for former Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista.

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