The blues scene in Mexico City, although it is far from being massive, remains afloat, remains in a state of survival, limited to small forums, festivals, cafes or bars. For a long time, Ruta 61, located on Baja California Avenue, was the sanctuary where tribute to the blues was paid every night.
In this space, the house band for many years was “Las Señoritas de Aviñón”, a group led by Octavio Herrero, who in 2015 met the great Irish singer – Mexican by adoption, Louise Phelan. What started as a random shoot to pay tribute to BB King for a magazine turned into a close professional relationship. Louise Phelan, extraordinary jazz singer, began to accompany Las Señoritas de Avignon in some performances, the chemistry between the band and Louise was evident.
Six years later, in 2021 – in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic – Louise, Octavio and a group of friends began recording “Azules”, one of the best blues albums, without exaggeration, that has been produced in Mexico. in recent years.
Since the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the work songs of black slaves in the United States were shaping and creating what we now know as Blues, a genre that developed over time to give way to various sounds, from traditional guitar and the whasboard or Washboard (that’s what it’s called and that’s what it looks like), to the most contemporary, including the Delta style, the Chicago style, etc.
In “Azules”, Louise and Octavio explore this wide range of blues styles, which makes the album an extraordinary window to delve into the genre for all those who do not know it and for the most experienced, an opportunity that is rarely offered to us. a blues album, to listen to with great quality, the diversity of the blues.
Louise and Octavio give us, in addition to splendidly remade classic songs, such as: I’d Rather Go Blind, Ramblin’ on my Mind, Stormy Monday or I’m a Woman (with slightly different lyrics), unreleased songs, some composed by Octavio Herrero, others by Louise and one more between them: Dios dice, Killing Spree, which arose from the classic Third Degree, but with lyrics against gender inequality; Sars for Days, which talks about the pandemic; or Sneaky, dedicated to Louise’s dog who died during the recording of the album. Thus, each theme selected in “Azules” has a reason for being.
Another element to highlight is that Louise Phelan is Louise Phelan but with a blues attitude. I explain. Generally, women who have developed in the blues have a particular type of timbre, thick, hoarse, heartbreaking voices, the list can be long, from Bessie Smith “The Empress of the Blues” to Janis Joplin. However, Louise’s voice is soft, with a wide vocal range, clean and more of a mezzo-soprano, that is, medium tones. That’s what we hear in “Azules”, Louise’s wonderful voice but with all the bluesy attitude, wonderful.
What can we say about Octavio Herrero and his guitar, extraordinary, one of the best blues guitarists in our country, he shines in every song and in every solo.
The musicians who accompanied this adventure are: Germán Guido, on drums, Izcacel Pérez, double bass, Xavier Gaona, electric bass, Paquito García, keyboards, Hernán “Pelusa” Silic, harmonica, Gladys Jiménez, on Tuba and Carlos Alegre, on the violin.
“Azules” by Louise Phelan and Octavio Herrero, is an album that blues lovers or not will greatly enjoy and one of the best and most complete blues albums in the history of the country.