They don’t call him Guitarlos for nothing—the cat wields his ax with flabbergasting skill, a mix of sophisticated technique and sheer musicality that allows him to employ a long-range artistic reach spanning a spectrum of impressive breadth, depth and height. Technically, Guitarlos is unrivaled—he’s capable of playing melody, an intricate bass line and beating out hot percussion all at once, creating a full-blown sound that positively dazzles. With a bottomless repertoire that demonstrates an intimate knowledge of almost every vernacular American music form, he also delivers it in a wildly idiosyncratic fashion that is as undeniably authentic as the hard-knock life he’s led.
Famed for his early 80s stint with legendary blues-shockers Top Jimmy & the Rhythm Pigs, a Los Angeles club phenomenon whose tore-down sound easily matched punk rock’s primitive kick (the band was immortalized in Van Halen’s unabashed tribute “Top Jimmy & the Rhythm Pigs”). Carlos too became something of a legend—an impudent, unpredictable character as rowdy and volatile as one of his thunderous solos (and one of his most famous fuck ups was refusing to let David Lee Roth cover one of his songs). By the late 90′s, he hit bottom as an indigent street singer and nearly died from congestive heart failure, but the unstoppable drive of this raggedy genius prevailed; he eventually returned to form and kicked everyone in the pants with his outstanding 2003 album Straight from the Heart. Carlos’ current CD, Hell Can Wait, is just as high-voltage, and when he hits the bandstand tonight, watch out. (Jonny Whiteside)