Ralf Hinojosa claims he’s been playing the guitar since the age of twelve. Many listeners, when first hearing him play, will find this difficult to believe. Ralf Hinojosa didn’t start playing the guitar at age twelve. Ralf Hinojosa was born with a guitar in his hands, and maybe at the age of twelve he decided to finally pluck a few strings, which is when he understood that he and the guitar had always been as one. His self-titled instrumental album begins with the song “Vision,” and a vision it is. Hinojosa’s guitar playing is mind-blowing, to say the least. Joe Satriani and Steve Vai have nothing on this guy. “Vision” is an excellent introduction to Hinojosa’s music and the snappy drumbeat is the perfect compliment to this short, melodic, guitar-screaming piece. Mr. Hinojosa has got our full attention.
“Touch” starts off a bit slower with smooth licks that defy description. To see this performed live would be astounding, as it sounds as though there are four hands at work here. The only criticism that can be mustered occurs in mid-song, when the drums are no longer accompanying Hinojosa’s stellar playing. For a brief moment, the flow of the song gets disrupted as the drums and the guitar seem to be out of synch. The track “Don’t Let Go” carries a much slower rhythm and it feels as though Hinojosa is relaxing while doing what he does best. While there are no lyrics, the guitar itself has a voice and he does indeed make it sing. Listeners will be lulled into a tranquil state of calmness while listening to the smooth rhythm of this piece and the voice of Hinojosa’s guitar.
“Invisible Feel” will send chills down the spine, and perhaps everywhere else too. This is the most solid piece on the album and it begins with languid guitar work that feels like sunshine on a cold day. It has a slightly Spanish essence to it and Hinojosa plays with confidence and graceful elegance. He makes the guitar cry out to the deeper side of the soul and the heart opens to the warmth of this piece. There is a haunting beauty to this song that will stay in the mind for a very long time. Continuing in this vein, “The Stroll” begins slowly and the guitar work is fantastic, but once again, the drum beat seems to be slightly off, making this piece disconcerting during its slower moments. The track is an exercise in extremes, because while it maintains a slow pace throughout, Hinojosa does not hesitate to crank up the volume in between lulls and the transitions could be smoother. Although the guitar work is undeniably amazing, this track could use some attention with regards to the rhythm.
“Cruise Control” presents as a faster piece featuring layered guitar tracks that don’t always compliment each other or the drum beat. As is the case with several pieces on this album, the rhythm tends to be out of synch at times, which takes away from the song itself and the talent that lies within. “Drifting Away” is a beautifully melodic piece and Hinojosa seems to shine his brightest when it’s just he and his guitar. That is when his magic comes through clearly and the listener can truly hear and feel what this artist is saying. A short and sweet song, this piece is nonetheless monumental. It’s simple, elegant and flawless.
“Insanity” closes the album and it hits hard. Hinojosa goes out the same way he came in, with both barrels blazing and his guitar flaming. There is a significant amount of drums in this piece, more so than guitar, and everything flows smoothly. There is not much of the signature Ralf Hinojosa screaming guitar licks, but it is still a good choice to end on. This piece is strong and the album itself is solid. With a few technical corrections and some attention given towards the rhythm of the pieces, this could be one of the leading albums in today’s instrumental guitar rock genre. Ralf Hinojosa is an extremely talented artist who makes a guitar come to life in his hands. He is one of those enviable players who can make even the most broken down and decrepit of guitars sound like the singing of angels. You know that old crooked and broken guitar that you found in the basement 20 years ago that used to be your dad’s? The guitar that no one can play and make sound good? Well, Ralf Hinojosa can make it sing like angels. With his talent, any guitar in his hands will sing like angels.
Review by Rhonda Readence
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)