I always appreciated guitar virtuosos but lead guys like Joe Satriani were never my thing. Acts like Madredeus were more my thing. I appreciated the Flamenco style guitar picking. It was more aesthetically pleasing to my ears. It didn’t take me long to realize I would enjoy Cielo Nocturno by Russ Hewitt. On top of the guitar work Hewitt enlisted some studio session pros who certainly can hold their own. Percussionist Raphael Padilla (Miami Sound Machine, Chris Isaak), drummer Walfredo Reyes Jr. (Santana, Steve Winwood, Chicago), bass player Bob Parr (Cher, Barry White), guitarist Alfredo Caceres (Gipsy Kings All-Stars) and Larry Carlton.
First off the production is pristine. Kudos to the production team. The acoustic guitar sounds fantastic. It’s the focal point in the mixes. The percussion is on point as well. From an engineering perspective this album is exceptional but not surprising when you look at the names.
Luckily, the recording quality isn’t the only thing that works. The music can go from relaxing and calming to festive and lively. Throughout the album the guitar work is what ties it all together. He opens with one of the most straight up joyful sounding tracks on the album entitled “Presidio.” The groove is great but I especially enjoyed the killer solo around three minutes in.
“Serenidad” is a little more lounge-y and features some tasteful accordion while “San Elizario” is the kind of song I wish millennials were dancing to more often than they are to EDM. Other highlights were “Cervezas and Cigars,” “Um Abraco Do Bossa” and “Persian Sky.” The guitar picking on “Persian Sky” is something you just have to listen to.
As I wrapped up Cielo Nocturno I was reminded once again of why I appreciated Flamenco style guitar over trigger happy lead guitarists. Hewitt doesn’t sacrifice the aesthetics for technical mastery. He combines them.
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