Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., Sept. 16, 2005
The Brew is an Austin institution. The brothers Rodriguez moved here from Brownsville some 25 years ago and carved out a distinctive niche for themselves where flamenco rock, jazz fusion, and salsa picante blend together. Their fourth album, and the first in several years, is a mixed bag but at its best captures the qualities that have sustained them over the decades. The band's focal point, formidable guitarist/producer Michael Rodriguez, acknowledges the inevitable influence of Carlos Santana and, in fact, throws in a dead-on if perhaps superfluous cover of "Europa." The album could use more tunes like the strutting, Cuban-flavored "Fuego a la Jicotea" and less of performances like the Beatles' "If I Fell," a cushioned pillow of smooth jazz froth often associated with the likes of Ottmar Liebert. The album is dedicated to flutist/percussionist/vocalist William (Willy) Santiago, a veteran of innumerable Austin bands, who plays and sings on several tracks and reminds us how he will be missed. It is in his fiery spirit that the Brew sounds best.