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Stephanie Urbina Jones

Fiery Angel – 2015 (Casa Del Rio)

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

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CDs by Stephanie Urbina Jones

In an interview with the Dixie Chicks years ago, they mentioned a whole class of country musicians out there making a decent living just playing clubs in Texas. That's pretty much where San Antonio singer/songwriter Stephanie Urbina Jones is at right now. Every once in a while, she'll get a career flare-up. The latest was when Craig Wayne Boyd, winner of The Voice, hit number 1 in early 2015 with her song, "My Baby's Got a Smile On Her Face." It was only the second record in chart history to debut at the top (Garth Brooks' "More Than a Memory" eight years back was the other). So the talent for Jones to pen a catchy tune isn't in question.

Still, this is Jones' fifth record, and there's more than personal pride at stake. She represents a lot of different camps: Latinas, churchgoers, divorced mothers. Not all of those sides make it on to "Fiery Angel." But the trademark blend of TexMex is there - "Vamanos" and "I Wanna Dance With You" bring the sun and fun. If you don't know how to meringue, you'll want to learn. For a little vocal show-off, she works up a moving cover of "Help Me Make It Through the Night." As good as it is, it would have been better with fewer ornaments in the mix (that rainstick sound of bell curtains is best left to the '70s). The real standout track is "Run Out of Road," a settle-down appeal to a wandering lover. It's got a slick slide guitar and power-pop arrangement that any number of country ingénues would lift off Jones' hands.

Be forewarned that the slower numbers tend to sink under the weight of their own heaviness ("Rose in the Wreckage" and "The Resurrection of My Heart"). While there's emotional authenticity, lyrics about the loneliness of moving to LA won't score a universal mark. And the title track metaphor is not nearly as clever as befits the many, many times it's repeated. But when Jones is happy, she'll take you with her. There are very few artists out there fusing honky-tonk with Ricky Martin. And you'll find it hard to resist when she passes the salsa.