“My Way or the Highway”
Rich Hopkins and Luminarios
San Jacinto Records, 2017 (America)
Blue Rose Records, 2017 (Europe)
The latest release from the musical mind of 30-year plus rock vet Rich Hopkins, his co-writer and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Lisa Novak, and the band’s luminary musicians from Houston and Tucson, is an excellent addition to the regional sound of the American/Baja Southwest.
The 12-track album showcases the mature writing ability of Hopkins and Novak – an album inspired by the songwriting couple’s recent travels. Their trip to southern Mexico resulted in two tracks, “Angel of the Cascades” and “Chan Kah,” that drew from those experiences and tell beautiful stories of people and places, situated in current times and in timeless myths. The chorus of “Angel of the Cascades” is particularly hypnotic and haunting. The song invites you to imagine seeing “the smile upon his face,” as Hopkins narrates their contemplation of a beautiful pristine jungle paradise waterfall. You can look inside the CD cover and see a picture of Rich with his new friends/guides by the very pool at the base of the waterfall.
About the trip to the falls that inspired “Angel of the Cascades,” Novak says the journey “was spiritual… we really did feel like we were blessed and watched over. I was terrified on the trip and there were no directions or signs. We left there with such a humbling experience from the way some folks live in the poorest of conditions but are so sweet and happy.” You’ll feel like you are diving right into the pool with Hopkins and Novak.
“If You Want To” is a rock-out anthem to positive risk taking as Hopkins and Novak sing, “You can do it, you know you can do it, it’s always dark before the dawn.” Tucson stalwarts Winston Watson (drums), Damon Barnaby (guitars) and Duane Hollis (bass) lay down the sound around Hopkins’ trademark guitar as Novak and Hopkins’ killer chorus soar over the notes. You’ll want to play the track, which has a ‘70s country rock feel to it, over and over.
Another amazing collaboration involves poet and rapper Cesar Aguirre, which results in a rap/rock lyric flow about eye-opening redemption. The lyrics and spoken word are delivered forcefully by Aguirre, with the chorus by Novak. The cut, “Meant for Mo’,” starts with an introduction that that has my new favorite movie quote, from “School Daze” … “we aren’t so happy you got a degree in art!”
Hopkins is especially grateful to Lars Goransson, producer and recording engineer, whom, he says, helped make the record happen with available studio time that pushed the material forward.
All in all, this is a release that can’t be pigeonholed into a genre, and displays the mature power of songwriters and collaborators producing a beautiful album.
Catch Rich Hopkins and Luminarios at Flycatcher, 340 E. 6th St., on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. and at Fini’s Landing, 5689 N. Swan Rd., on April 7 at 8 p.m. Learn more at RichHopkinsMusic.com and ReverbNation.com/richhopkinsandtheluminarios.