Though Michael Juan Nunez may not be a household name when it comes to national, blues rock circles, truthfully, his stuff is just as good as those more famous cats. The Erath native has delivered several superb discs over the past dozen years with each demonstrating how he continues to advance in his craft. As a guitarist, he’s thick with licks, rife with riffs and has enough textures to fill the state of Texas. But whether he’s cranking out crunchy chords and rolling howling slides, he’s not the self-indulgent six-string slinger loaded with hell-bent histrionics. His shots lean towards thoughtful, conceptual cuts that take lots of listens to unravel. He sets up the fugitive-fleeing saga of “18 Miles” by simulating a recording of a Spanish guitar on a Mexican radio station on the preceding “Border Station.” On the rollicking “Lemonade,” Nunez is joined by a trio of horns for a jump blues feel while he keeps steady with a pulsating baseline. Initially, it’s an amusing hard-luck story until Nunez surprises with a politically charged verse about fat cats and bailouts.
There’s often intensity and edginess about his protagonists (“Hard Side of Easy”) but there’s also tongue-in-cheek humor as well – like the angst of “Make up My Mind” and “Train Wreck,” which finds Nunez playing side-by-side with Sonny Landreth for insightful contrast of styles. But the funniest of all is “No Rock-N-Roll,” the title inspired by Mississippi bluesman Fred McDowell who once proclaimed: “I don’t play no rock-n-roll” emblazoned on the title of one of his last albums. Here Nunez goes blitzkrieg ballistic, while, ironically, regurgitating all the things parents say to their rebelling teenagers about their blaring rock music (“them loud guitars, they drive me crazy”). If such things were said to Nunez during his youth, it’s a good thing he didn’t listen.