There’s something affirmative and redemptive at work through Alex Lopez and the Xpress’ latest release Rising Up. The eleven tracks included with this release will resonate with virtually anyone and veer from serious, introspective minded glimpses of Lopez’s songwriting skills to more overtly entertaining fare. There is no question, however, that Lopez’s primary mandate is entertaining listeners and he invariably avoids the languid tempos favored by a wide assortment of cookie cutter blues guitarists and, instead, injects a rollicking shot of pure rock and roll into the mix. It has the desired effect and provides the collection with added power it would have otherwise lacked. There isn’t a single track on this album you’ll deem filler. They all serve a purpose and do an excellent job of revealing the variety of musical faces Lopez wears to great effect.
Openers are all important. They set a tone and, for newcomers, provide a key introduction to the artist’s material. “Light It Up” couldn’t be anything else except an ideal first song. Many of Lopez’s strongest suits are fully evident, but one that may not get discussed enough is his brevity. You will be hard pressed to find a single song on this album that runs too long. Lopez has an excellent handle on what his audience wants and delivers it to them with plenty of musical skill and ample personality – but his focus stands out even more. His fret work will please anyone who loves great guitar playing. It’s fluid, never static, and operates with precision throughout.
“Rising Up” will be a favorite for many. It blends a funked up rhythm section attack with assorted riffs and bursts of melody from Lopez’s guitar playing. He has a slight nasal quality in his voice that listeners may have noticed before now, but it never effects your appreciation of both the effective songwriting and vocals. Female backing singers support his vocals during the chorus but the bulk of the responsibility for making this track soar falls on his shoulders alone and he’s more than capable of carrying the load.
“Not This Time” is a blues gem with wailing lead guitar, rhythm section work with a lot of muscle, and superb production values bringing it to life. Despite the relative unconventionality of his voice, Lopez proves himself adept at invoking the feeling this genre demands. Along with the album’s second track “Paradise”, “Anymore” is a readymade potential single distinguished by the top shelf arrangement and occasionally chiming, always confident, guitar playing carrying it towards its conclusion. The drums give it an extra authoritative push as well.
Rising Up ends with the steady march powering “Smile”. It has a very retro feel, even more so than the earlier tracks, but the modern production values driving the track never leave it languishing in the past. There’s no doubt that Lopez has hit on a winning formula for his music, but it never stops him from mixing up things with unexpected turns and surprises. Rising Up has something for everyone who appreciates polished yet unquestionable real music.