Alma Vieja
(Saulito Music)


Based in Dallas Texas, fretboard master Russ Hewitt continues refining his unique blend of acoustic-based Nuevo Flamenco and Gypsy Jazz guitar instrumentals. Sounding equally inspired by vintage flamenco, classical guitar and rhumba flamenco with a touch of glowing Santana inspired guitar moves, Hewitt clearly has the chops and, while his sound is impeccable, it’s also worth noting that on the 2011 CD release of Alma Vieja (Old Soul), Hewitt is also about emotion and feel. The notes just flow off of Hewitt's nylon string guitars and the melodies are memorable too. On the Alma Vieja album, Russ reunites once again with producer Bob Parr, and several of the key players who were also featured on the 2009 CD release of Bajo el Sol—including Steve Winwood drummer Walfredo Reyes Jr. and percussionist Rafael Padilla. Where Hewitt dazzles with his usual deft flamenco jazz sound, on track 8 here, “Las Cruces”, Hewitt also displays a rare compositional knack for composing songs that could very well turn out to be instrumental standards—for fusion, flamenco, jazz and beyond. Texas has turned out some of the great American rock and blues guitar pioneers of all time, and the American Nuevo Flamenco Jazz sound gets a solid boost with the timeless flamenco guitar groove of Alma Vieja. presents an interview with

mwe3: The new Alma Vieja CD is a fantastic follow up to your 2008 album Bajo el Sol. Can you say something about when and where the Alma Vieja album was recorded, how long it took to write and record and what was your musical approach this time?

RH: Fortunately this time I was able to record everything in one studio (On Parr Studios) in Argyle, Texas just north of Dallas. Bajo el Sol was recorded in 5 different studios from California to Connecticut which proved to be logistically difficult to put all the files together. My musical approach was to push the boundaries of the Nuevo Flamenco genre a little bit more and add a Tango, Milonga, Samba and some Cha Chas. I spent most of 2009 on press while 2010 was focused on song writing and recording. 2011 was primarily spent on mixing. All the while I was playing 200+ shows per year.

mwe3: The new CD sounds quite professionally recorded and performed. How would you describe the chemistry between your guitar sound and compositions and these great players on your albums?

RH: Everybody that played on my CD is truly amazing and I’m honored that they joined me on this project. When working with high caliber players you don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re playing in time, rushing a lick or too busy with a fill and we can concentrate on making the song as robust as possible. Ultimately I have the final say but I’m very open to everybody’s thoughts and ideas because they understand what kind of sound and feel I’m going for. I wanted the CD to sound sonically as good if not better than any major label release, which is why we spent almost a year on mixing. With all the effort spent up to this point it would be a shame if it didn’t sound amazing on everything from a high dollar stereo system to an iPod.

mwe3: What did producer Bob Parr bring to the album sound this time and was the Alma Vieja album recorded and produced live in the studio in a similar way to the Bajo el Sol album?

RH: Bob becomes the mad scientist when we start in on the mixes. I’ve worked with him for almost 10 years and I’m still amazed at the thought process he goes through to get the sounds that he does. We recorded all 11 songs live in one day with the band. We spent a couple of days of overdubs for the rhythm guitar and a couple more days for the lead guitar and that was it. We were close to being done with the mixes and then brought in Charlie Bisharat to do violin and Michael Lington to do saxophone. Some songs have up to 70 tracks going at any given time. Unlike working in multiple studios, this time we weren’t on a time table so we were able to methodically go through track by track until we achieved what we thought was perfection.

mwe3: Did you take a different approach to the guitars played on the Alma Vieja album and can you say something about what guitars you feature the Alma Vieja tracks and how does your choice of guitar strings affect the guitar sound?

RH: I use a Godin Grand Concert SA when I’m playing live but I don’t record with them. When you plug in a nylon string guitar there’s a ‘plastic’ sound to it which is impossible to EQ out and the Godin doesn’t have enough body to make it sound good mic’d. I used a Taylor NS72 CE Grand Concert Classical guitar on both Baja el Sol and Alma Vieja. The sound of the guitar really cuts through the mix and I don’t have to fight the frequencies of the other instruments. I use D’Addario hard tension strings but I recently discovered, and have been using a wound 3rd string made by Hannabach that I really like.

mwe3: How did you become interested in the flamenco / jazz guitar sound and what genres of guitar and what guitarists interest you the most?

RH: I discovered Ottmar Liebert and the Gipsy Kings while I was studying classical guitar in college. I always enjoyed the style but it wasn’t until after I graduated that I started to play it live. I love traditional flamenco guitar like Sabicas and Paco de Lucia but because the technique is different than classical, I really couldn’t do both at the same time. I’m not a huge fan of traditional jazz, though I can appreciate what is involved. I love Gypsy Jazz guitar and you can hear the influence of that style in my solos. I always get excited when I see a great guitar player regardless of what style of music it is. Recently I’ve been getting into Guthrie Govan and Stochelo Rosenberg.

mwe3: Can you say something about where you grew up and how the music of your youth made an impact on your guitar playing?

RH: I grew up in a small town in Texas with a population of 10,000 and there wasn’t much to do other than look for trouble and play guitar. The majority of my licks and technique come from my days learning Van Halen, Ozzy, and Iron Maiden songs as well as songs from any band on Shrapnel Records. The style that I play now lends perfectly to what I previously learned playing rock and metal since the chord progressions in Nuevo Flamenco are very similar to some of the styles I grew up playing. The chord progressions I’m playing now are very similar to learning to solo over the chord progression changes of “Mr. Crowley” by Ozzy Osbourne.

mwe3: It looks like the Alma Vieja CD is getting some great press around the globe. What are your plans as far as bringing your CDs and guitar playing to music lovers far and wide.

RH: One of the big advantages today of being an independent artist is the digital age we live in. With iTunes worldwide and the internet it’s been a real game changer on being able to reach places and get my music heard in places I couldn’t have imagined 10 years ago. I’m currently working with booking agents on the logistics of touring overseas and hope to have more news on that soon.

mwe3: Do you have other interests outside of music including hobbies and special causes?

RH: I’ve played several shows to raise money for local charities. As far as hobbies, I’m so consumed with music, whether it be writing, promoting or playing live, I don’t have time for much else. My little free time is spent hanging out with my wife, two Siberian Huskies and Siamese cat.

mwe3: Thanks Russ, best of luck on the new album!

RH: Thank you for all of your help and support in getting my music out there!

Thanks to Russ Hewitt @


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