Following the demise of his band the Sand Rubies (a.k.a. Sidewinders) in the early ’90s, Tucson guitarist Rich Hopkins wasted little time with his next project, the Luminarios. Seven albums and innumerable lineup changes later, Hopkins has struck gold.
Devolver kicks off on a high note with the chiming, Tom Pettyish “Red River Salmon”. Next comes a diverse set that features touchstones both familiar and unusual: “Lost Planet Of Love” is a minor-chord desert rocker directly descended from the Rubies, while the instrumental “Intergalactic Space-Shitting Dinosaurs” recalls the Byrds’ space cowboy jams and features looped short-wave transmissions, low-end drones from ex-MC5 bassist Mike Davis, and Hopkins’ psychedelic guitar licks.
Not only has Hopkins finally come into his own as a vocalist, he displays an intuitive grasp of the less-is-more ethic, layering subtle tapestries of acoustic strums amid atmospheric electric etchings (notable are those at the hands of the Luminarios’ cosmic steel guitarist Stefan George). And with “Sincero Amor”, the album earns an unexpected emotional centerpiece: Framed by acoustic guitars, heartbeat bass and swooning violin, Paraguayan guest tenor Concepcion Romero, crooning in his native Spanish, turns in a virtuoso performance guaranteed to stop listeners in their tracks and melt their hearts.
The initial pressing of Devolver contains a bonus disc. In addition to some rousing, Crazy Horse-like live material, covers of Neil Young’s “Like A Hurricane” (an acoustic arrangement with electronic effects) and Gene Clark’s “If You’re Gone” (shantylike rhythm, ringing chords and a celestial vibe) make the 40-minute CD a keeper.
By hewing true to the Sand Rubies’ celebrated brand of burning-sun anthems and additionally bringing forth an array of sleekly romantic acoustic textures, Hopkins has, with his Luminarios, come full-circle even while appreciably, and winningly, widening that circle.