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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

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Brownout
Homenaje
Freestyle

By Michael Stone

Published July 18, 2008

Long an indie rock pacesetter, Austin, Texas, has more recently broadened its horizons to boast a growing contingent of Latino bands. Among the latest wave is Brownout—a Latin funk octet that taps into some South Texas roots, serving up a sizzling, mostly instrumental repertoire heavy on guitar, sax, brass, and congas, and recalling (but never imitating) precursors like Joe Bataan, Santana, Tower Of Power, and Grupo Fantasma (where some players here do double duty). It’s no wonder that The Austin Chronicle named Brownout the city’s Best Live Act, describing the group’s performances as a dance frenesí of boogaloo, soul funk, salsa, Afro-Latin, Afro-beat, and acid jazz sounds. To that end, “Con El Brownout No Se Juega” (“Don’t Mess With Brownout”) could be a latter-day reincarnation of Cal Tjader and Mongo Santamaria, while “Chafa Khan Artistry” constitutes a head-on collision between Willie Bobo, King Tubby, James Brown, and a sonic barrage of unidentified flying objects. Take cover!

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