Carlos Villalobos: La Esperanza

Swirling, fleet flamenco guitar work meets modern dance rhythms on La Esperanza (Higher Octave HOMCD 46227; 63:06), a sometimes dizzying romantic showcase for multi-instrumentalist Carlos Villalobos. Unlike many of his Latin-strumming contemporaries, Villalobos doesn’t overdress melodies like the lightly walking, cornered “Gabriella’s Lullaby,” allowing his dynamic strum and fleet fretwork to shine through. He also avoids the everything-sounds-the-same pitfall by reaching for a variety of textures and styles, from “Spanish Eyes,” which amps up a heavy flamenco stomp with rattling, dancing contemporary percussion, to “Para Mi Nicole,” a cinematic, dreamy piece which echoes Sting’s touching “Fragile.” Industrial-to-“house” type rhythms resonate with the chant-and-clap traditionalism of “Guapa.” The only slight misfire here is a pop-soul ballad, “What Would Love Do Now,” marred by a somewhat melodramatic Glenn Medeiros vocal… and a tendency to introduce other tunes with new agey, keyboard effect-heavy opens. Make it past those intros, however, and there are many rewarding layers to uncover.