Evelyn Rubio was already a star in her native Mexico, appearing on the stage and television as a child singer, dancer, and actor. She also fell in love with blues, soul, jazz, and rock, along with the saxophone, forming a rock band in Mexico. She soon moved to Houston, where she met former B.B. King band leader Calvin Owens and joined his orchestra, recording and performing as a vocalist and soloist with the band. After meeting another King alum, James Bolden, Rubio released her debut album, Hombres (in English and Spanish versions).
Her latest release is Crossing Borders (SeaSpeed Productions), an ambitious set of blues, rock, jazz, and soul produced by Larry Fulcher, who also played bass. Recorded in Austin, Houston, and Los Angeles, the album includes a host of guest artists including Fulcher’s fellow Phantom Blues Band members Johnny Lee Schell (guitar), Tony Braunagel (drums) and Mike Finnigan (keys), and guitarists David Grissom, Josh Sklair, and The Mighty Orq. The album features 15 tracks, with three of them duplicated in Spanish versions.
“One More Last Time,” the opening track, is R&B with tons of swagger. Rubio’s vocals are supple and soulful and Grissom sizzles on guitar. The mid-temp “Still On Your Side” continues in the R&B vein with Grissom and the Phantom Blues Band in support, and “Just Like A Drug” kicks with a lively Latin rhythm, Schell’s Santana-esque fretwork and Rubio’s sax. The marvelous “Port Isabel” is a great piece of retro jazz-pop that features Rubio scat-singing and playing some gorgeous sax.
“He Did Me Wrong But He Did It Right” (also included in a Spanish version) is a fine up-tempo blues shuffle, and the heartbreaker “I Don’t Understand” is an excellent showcase for her vocal versatility. “When You Say You’re Sorry” is a solid blues rocker, and the smoky ballad “Border Town” (also included in Spanish) finds Rubio playing tenor sax (she plays alto otherwise on the album). The mid-tempo “Mistake” is bluesy R&B, and “Cruel” (also here in Spanish) adds funk to the mix while continuing into the next track, the blues-rocker “What A Way To Go.”
The album closer (the Spanish tracks are “Bonus” cuts) is a fantastic acoustic Delta blues take on the Latin music standard “Besame Mucho” (with The Mighty Orq on guitar and Sonny Boy Terry on harmonica) that works so well, one wonders why it hasn’t been tried before.
Evelyn Rubio covers a lot of ground on Crossing Borders, and she does it with style and grace galore. She’s definitely a talented artist, whether as a vocalist or as a saxophonist, and blues fans will be hearing much more from her in the future.
— Graham Clarke
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