When listening to a new CD, it's sometimes not hard to tell if the band had an overall concept in mind. With Oscar Ortega's new solo release, Fruits of the Mourning, the only idea seems to be showcasing his skill on the guitar and with little attention paid to whether the songs go together. But, though this is not a cohesive body of work, it is a body of work. If you like metal with a side of distortion, there's a song on here for you. If singer/songwriter music fills your iPod, you'll find a track or two on Fruits. If classical Latin guitar gets you going, there's something on the CD for you, too. Fruits is like a mix tape; the songs just all happen to be by the same guy.
Ortega, who is of Guatemalan descent (and is the newest member of local hip-hop band Kamphire Collective), has music in his blood. His father, a professional musician himself, seems to have instilled in his son not only a love for playing but the importance of being honest with his music and himself. That may help explain the disconnect between the songs on this CD. Ortega is giving listeners a taste of the music he can make, but also the music he himself loves, and if that spans genres that don't necessarily match up, then so be it. He picks sweetly at "Chopin's Prelude in C Minor," digs in with some rock-metal, wades through a wind-chime-laden new age piece and then drops in a liberal dose of danceable Latin sound.
Ortega has a passel of talented musicians chiming on Fruits, one of note being vocalist Joel Klimes of Boise band Coco Pele fame, who sings on both of the album's tracks that include vocals. One of the prettiest songs on the CD (and possibly one of the prettiest songs I've heard to date) is titled "Taedum." Ortega said he had the idea for the song, but didn't feel like his English was good enough to let him express his ideas in the right way. He explained to Klimes what he wanted the song to say, and the two of them created a piece that Klimes sings as if it's what's in his own heart.
The CD isn't available for purchase just yet, but when it is, it will be the sort of CD that might be perfect for a road trip, especially one with friends who don't all necessarily like the same kind of music. The guitar playing is masterful and the songs are varied enough that you and your metal-head friend, your sweet-pop-song-preferring friend and your Latin-music-loving friend will hear something you and they will enjoy. And you won't even have to change the radio station.
Ortega plays Sept. 9 opening for Mansfield, 9 p.m., FREE, Terrapin Station, 1519 W. Main St.; Sept. 15, 7 p.m., FREE, Espresso Italia, 3210 E. Chinden, 208-938-4539. For more information, visit OscarOrtega.net.