Startling return from the abyss for LA-based Carlos Ayala

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Carlos Guitarlos – Straight From The Heart

Once guitar god with Cali-punks Top Jimmy & The Rhythm Pigs, diabetes and a monstrous drug intake left Ayala a homeless bum busking for nickels on street corners. Now, post-rehab, there’s a Hollywood biopic on the way and this stellar comeback album.

Old running buddies Dave Alvin, John Doe and ex-Minuteman Mike Watt lend support, but the whiskered 54-year-old is a one-man dervish on this cyclonic whirl through swamp-blues, zydeco, country, Tex-Mex and happy hour rock ‘n’ roll. The fretwork is bar-room punchy, the voice grizzled to perfection, the lyrics (particularly “When The Pain Stops Killing Me”) picking at still-fresh wounds.