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Louis Ortega and the Wild Jalapenos

In My Heart – 1998 (Wild Jalapeno Music)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Louis Ortega and the Wild Jalapenos

While Louis Ortega's voice isn't quite as memorable as his guitar and bajo sexto, the slightly worn edge of his vocals blends nicely with his tales of love and life. Years spent with the Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornados provide a Tex-Mex flavor, and a helping of R&B, a la Stevie Ray Vaughn, Los Lobos and even Mink DeVille, rounds out his soulful sound.

The band's blend of guitars, dobro, accordion, piano and Hammond strikes a more southern feel than suggested by their Santa Barbara, Cal. origin. Ballads like "Never Be a Saint" and "Mi Casa es Su Casa," alternate with two-steps and polkas ddddlike "Amor de Mi Vida" and the sax-driven "She's an Angel." Two unlisted bonus tracks include a lovely, accordion-led cover of "Ring of Fire."

Ortega's latest is a good example of the vital, personal music that's written, recorded and distributed outside the mainstream of major-labeldom. While some artists strive only to make hits singles, others, like Ortega, strive to make great music. (Available from Wild Jalapeno Music, Box 13615, San Luis Obispo, Ca 93406, 805-541-2208)