Maybe it’s my age, but I still listen to ’70s rock. And according to my kids, ages 13 and 11, who listen mostly to WBLM, Maine’s classic rock station, the music of Pink Floyd and Lynyrd Skynyrd still rocks.

But the phrase “been there, done that” comes to mind, and I’ve always kept an ear out for something new. This time it landed in my lap. As I’m listening to a 12-track CD called “Loaded Dice,” by El Vato, I hear the music equivalent of comfort food with a very fresh taste.

Lewiston guitarist Arlo West teamed up with Australian bass player Colin Wilson and British drummer Paul Bonney to form El Vato. This three-man band recently recorded and released “Loaded Dice” with an incredibly full sound of raw Southern blues rock power.

The CD starts with the song “Drivin’ To New England,” written and sung by Wilson, who captures West’s musical journey from Maine to Texas and back again. Wilson’s voice brings to mind the smooth vocals of Ronnie Hammond from the Atlanta Rhythm Section, who was huge in the 1970s South, but may be a little more obscure in this part of the country.

“I’ve never been to Texas,” said Wilson, who along with Bonney plays in the world-touring Pink Floyd cover band The Australian Pink Floyd Show. “But that song was how I saw Arlo — you know, a lone star.”

Another slightly more biopic track is “Desert Affair,” written by West, who said “there’s a lot of truth in there.” This track features the more raspy vocals of West and a killer guitar solo that spotlights West’s powerful blues licks using tremolo and delay on one of his handmade Pinecaster guitars.

Clearly influenced by the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top, “Loaded Dice” is loaded with hard-core guitar in simple, classic guitar chords and driving rhythm provided by Wilson on bass and Bonney on drums.

One of the more hard-core tracks on the CD almost didn’t make it on the final recording. “American Dream,” written by West, paints a picture of the homeless unapologetic for their lives. West worried that the lyrics would be misunderstood, but Wilson considers the track his favorite of the CD.

“I loved it,” said Wilson. “There’s nothing in that song that isn’t true, and we’re not trying to make a political statement. At the end of the day, it’s a rock ‘n’ roll song.”

Being a Satriani fan, I found myself listening over and over to “So Sad.” For me, this instrumental tune — three guys letting their guard down and playing exquisitely — is the best track on the CD.

If you’re one who clings to the ’70s rock sound, you’ll swear that you grew up listening to El Vato and that it’s been around forever. But West, Wilson and Bonney are three hombres who found each other and decided to make the kind of music they like.

“It’s not about paying the mortgage any more,” said Wilson. “It’s a personal satisfaction more than anything else.”

That attitude of looseness, freedom and energy wails through loud and raw on “Loaded Dice” the way rock ‘n’ roll should.

The CD is currently available on the band’s website, www.el-vato.com.


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