By Charles Westmark
I don’t know who I would be without music and a large part of that is that I have cared about it for so long. All the interests or hobbies I had before I started going to shows have long faded from my life, and while I have picked up new ones, none of them are as significant as my commitment to practicing guitar. Nothing else has brought me as many friends as music has—whether that’s nationally or locally.
The special part about local music is the impact. You can have a sold-out show at the Launchpad or attend the first Belen Fest in somebody’s garage and over ten years later have friends that are touring the country. You can meet your best friend in a band and influence them to drop out of engineering school to play trombone in a ska band, and now they’ve performed at Red Rocks three times (oddly specific, but okay). The following records made me think about how they’ve created a foundation for the lives of performers and fans alike.
1. Vicente Saucedo - Vicente Plays (1965)
My favorite thing about the Albuquerque music store Longhair Records is the descriptions on the price tags. Vicente Plays was labeled as New Mexico Flamenco described as “Beautiful, Flamenco Con Saudade.” A week after attending my first late-night performance for the Festival Flamenco Albuquerque at Tablao Flamenco in Old Town, it’s only appropriate I found this record by local guitarist Vicente Saucedo. He performed down the street from Tablao Flamenco for years at Vicente’s Dining Room, a restaurant in Old Town he owned with his wife.
Vicente was born in 1922 in Villa de la Paz, Mexico, and performed in his father’s orchestra by age ten on multiple stringed instruments. After first playing in Albuquerque on tour in 1947, he worked in the mines in Grants and played in a mariachi group before ultimately settling here. He became a local mainstay for years with a restaurant gig that paid in more than just exposure.
Vicente Plays was co-released locally through Vidot Records and Red Feather Records. Vicente had at least one other vinyl pressed, titled Vicente Plays Quiciera Estar En La Luna.
Albuquerque has had no shortage of amazing Flamenco guitarists. The University of New Mexico was briefly one of two schools in the world where you could get a degree in Flamenco Guitar with featured instruction by Pedro Cuadra who had moved here from Spain.
2. The Muttz - The Muttz (1987)
My parents never went to see live music when I was growing up so on a rare occasion, my dad’s friend convinced them to get dinner and see a local band called Soul Kitchen. My father’s friend, Dennis, was a blues fan who knew that I played guitar and told me that I needed to see Chris Dracup of Soul Kitchen because he was “the real fucking deal.” While I had started seeing punk and ska bands, I had never seen anybody play guitar like this and it was quite excellent. It stuck with me, but I think it took some time and maturity to realize just how much I appreciate Chris’s playing.
I found The Muttz through a YouTube video, which is when I learned that Chris Dracup had a band prior to Soul Kitchen. Chris jumped around and played a seafoam green, Telecaster-style guitar with amazing command of the instrument, not to mention incredible vocals from him and the drummer. The music certainly had blues elements to it, but the band was not shy to play a lot of reggae-style songs and really couldn’t be held to a single genre at all. And really, neither can Chris Dracup. The man is an excellent guitar player who is versatile and while he is well known within New Mexico, I do hope that younger players and people within the rock scene will take note of his work now.
The Muttz enjoyed regional acclaim and were even featured on a television show called Star Search, where they only lost by quarter of a point. If you can find their cassette, it contains a collection of songs that have withstood the test of time.
3. Femme Fatale - Femme Fatale (1988)
Before the Internet disrupted the music industry as we knew it, a band wanting to get signed would have been smart to go to Los Angeles. Just as love is not always enough in relationships, talent is not always enough in music—it takes some luck. While The Philsteens may not have survived Los Angeles, the Albuquerque band Femme Fatale had the luck and talent to get signed to MCA Records and make their way to #141 on the Billboard 200, get featured on the License to Drive film soundtrack, and went on a world tour opening for Cheap Trick.
Being born in 1991, I somehow remember tan M&M’s and the day that Kurt Cobain died better than I do a time when MTV played music. But apparently MTV played music, and here’s the proof with a performance by Femme Fatale. Ironically, MTV may have been part of the driving force that got Femme Fatale’s sophomore album shelved by the label after it was recorded. Glam rock was out, and grunge was in.
4. Henry’s Dress - Henry’s Dress (1995)
As the grunge and alternative scene exploded, bands like My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth were picking up pawn shop instruments and creating incredible music with instruments that fell out of favor, like offset Fender guitars.
Henry’s Dress was a band that started in Albuquerque and relocated to San Francisco. With hints of noise, shoegaze, and an authentic raw sound, Henry’s Dress was a perfect complement to this era. The band released several recordings and remained true to their Albuquerque roots even after moving, issuing a split with friends and locals Flake—later known as The Shins.
As it is said, the real local records from 1995 are the friends you make along the way.