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Louie Shelton: Hot & Spicy

With an expressive, warm guitar sound and a gift for hooky melodies, Louie Shelton has several of the key ingredients to make Hot & Spicy (Sin-Drome SD 8929; 50:36) a worldly confection. Unfortunately, liberal helpings from a blander menu are also added, often spoiling the mix. As a guitarist, Shelton impresses with an arsenal of techniques-from the pretty, full strum and forward motion propelling “Midnight Rain” to the needling, sly soloing tone employed on “Better Days.” However, the arrangements tend to fall back on now-standard smooth jazz arrangement elements, like the slick keyboard jumble crowding “Midnight” and the typically breathy vocal wafting through “Days.” Likewise “dinging” effects reduce Shelton’s brassy, note-bending guitar attack on “Satin Dreams” to just another component of a rather conventional ballad. Faring better is the album’s title track, which has a bassy soul center and more exposed cornered guitar line to outweigh its rattling programming. The expressive “Winds of the Serengeti” is another promising highlight, gleaning captivating forward motion from Bob Warren’s drums, as well as Shelton’s heartfelt guitar work.

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