LA JUNTA Always Live! (Feel Good Music)
Local selfproclaimed “Southwest funk-hop” collective La Junta is one of those bands that always sounds better in a live setting. Blame it on the energy of the crowd or the uniqueness of the band’s composite of jazz, funk, reggae, hip-hop, ska, Latin, and blues, but something in the air changes when singer/guitarist Nicholas Peña hits the stage with that opening song. It’s a feeling a studio album can’t capture. Recorded at the Santa Fe Brewing Company Pub & Grill in late December 2009, Always Live! comes close. Opener “Wade” sends out the R&B/ska vibe with heaps of saxophone riffage and Peña rhyming in conscious hip-hop mode: “Wade through the game, wade through the shame, wade through the politics we can’t see … through the lies we believe.” Although the tracks were recorded in front of a live audience, the CD shouldn’t be mistaken for a concert album. There are fade-outs between all songs, and the song order seems to have been altered. Mixed at the band’s Feel Good studio and mastered by Doug Geist at Santa Fe Center Studio, the 16-track disk sports a song selection that will please La Junta’s diehard local fans. Northern New Mexico party anthem “Pecos” made the cut, as did Peña’s beat-box-tinged ode to Santa Fe. It wouldn’t be La Junta without some reggae heat, which can be found on the album’s hidden last track — a jammin’ cover of Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It” with a La Junta twist.
— Rob DeWalt