On a dusty road in Texas, Arlo West saw a meticulously painted lowrider. The owner had proudly sprayed “El Vato,” meaning “the man” in Mexican slang. West knew that some day he would have a band called El Vato.

Nearly 30 years later back in Maine, West met a couple of musicians from Australia and England through a mutual friend, a Swedish photographer. And now El Vato, a three-piece band playing Texas-style blues rock, is a reality with its recently released CD, “Loaded Dice.”

“It’s been a long journey trying to figure out who I am as a musician,” said West of Lewiston, who turns 52 today and still rocks on the guitar. “I’m not trying to be a big rock ‘n’ roll star anymore. I chased that dream up a tree forever. Now it’s just about personal satisfaction and playing really cool music.”

The other two band members in El Vato also embraced the chance to play their own music on their own terms. Vocalist and bass player Colin Wilson, originally from Australia, and drummer Paul Bonney from England have been playing in the international mega cover band known as The Australian Pink Floyd Show since the 1990s.

“(El Vato is) a chance to do something completely original and something which is more like what I grew up listening to,” said Wilson from his home in Manchester, England. “I’ve always been a big fan of the three-piece band setup and of this kind of bluesy rock music.”

To call The Australian Pink Floyd Show a cover band is a bit of an understatement. The elaborate stage production with light shows, dozens of band members and backup vocalists constantly tours the world performing nothing but Pink Floyd music. With an invitation from David Gilmour, the band played at his 50th birthday party in 1996.

When the show came to the Cumberland County Civic Center in 2004, the Swedish photographer known simply as Trons contacted Wilson to have West put on the guest list. Trons convinced West that he had to go see the show.

“I really didn’t know what to expect, but I was blown away and mesmerized. I had to let these guys know how much I appreciated them,” said West.

Colins, who had heard and liked West’s music, said he was surprised to learn that West was a fan of Gilmour. West, likewise, was surprised to learn that Colins was a fan of Stevie Ray Vaughan.

West was born and raised in Maine. He loved Vaughan and ZZ Top and tried unsuccessfully to break into the local blues circle. Not considered a true blues guitarist in his own backyard, West and two other guys headed west — to Texas. They spent several years playing gigs throughout the Lone Star State, mostly in Austin.

It was there that West connected with sound engineers from Sweden, which landed him subsequent tours half a world away. Even after returning to Maine, West continued to play shows in Sweden.

After a year of e-mailing songs and ideas back and forth with Wilson, West left for Sweden again to make El Vato actually happen.

“Wow, we smoked!” said Wilson, describing the first time the three of them played together. “There is something very magical about getting three seasoned players together that are all singing from the same hymn sheet if you get my meaning. We clicked instantly.”

Wilson recalled sharing the bill with some young bands at their first performance in Manchester, and a young musician impressed with their sound approached them.

“This kid comes up to Arlo and obviously weighing up our age compared to his says, ‘How long have you guys been together?’” said Wilson. “Arlo turns to him deadpan and says ‘about a week.’ The kid’s jaw hit the floor and we fell about laughing.”

“Arlo’s the real deal,” said Wilson. “No ego trips. You know, when you’ve been playing for a long time the spark wears off a little, but playing in El Vato is like getting back the thrill you had when you were 16 years old. When we started recording, it was like my midlife crisis just got a whole lot better.”

El Vato is waiting to see how audiences will react to its music and perhaps do some limited touring, said West. None of the members is interested in a constant life on the road any longer, but they agreed that they didn’t want to close any doors.

“I like spending the weekend in Boothbay Harbor with my wife,” said West. “I like my life now, but writing and playing music is an outlet for creativity and what I’ve always done.”


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