Very Be Careful-Daisy’s Beauty Salon.

Label: Downtown Pijao and Steadybeat Records.

Release Date: ‘20h’ July 2018.

For over twenty years, Los Angeles-based vallenato veterans Very Be Careful have been playing their unique brand of music everywhere from bars, clubs and sports arenas to festivals in Britain, America and Japan. That is where many people heard Very Be Careful for the first time as they fused Colombian vallenato and cumbia on music that is a mixture of Caribbean soul and a California heart. That is the case on their new album Daisy’s Beauty Salon which will be released on Downtown Pijao and Steadybeat Records on the ‘20th’ of July 2018. Daisy’s Beauty Salon is the eleventh album from Very Be Careful since they released their debut in 1998.

Very Be Careful were formed in Los Angeles, and nowadays, are regarded as the city’s first cumbia and vallenato crossover band. It may be that Very Be Careful was America’s first ever cumbia and vallenato crossover band. They certainly weren’t the last, and later, other bands followed in the footsteps.

In the early days of Very Be Careful, the band combined the defiance of rock with an underground aesthetic, but stayed true to the roots of Colombian vallenato and cumbia. Its roots can be traced to the fifties, and was popular right through to the seventies. After that, Colombian vallenato and cumbia was no longer fashionable, and fell from grace in America.

That was until the members of Very Be Careful decided to rejuvenate the music. It was perfect for the new band. The music was uncomplicated, had a rawness and honesty and with practise, the members of Very Be Careful knew that they could play with precision. 

As Very Be Careful began practising and honing their sound, and stripped the music back to its simplest form. This was when Ricardo and Arturo Guzman saw vallenato and cumbia as a combination of musical challenge and uncomplicated expression. It also had the potential to be popular.

Having made their live debut, it wasn’t long before Very Be Careful were familiar faces on LA’s live scene where they became known for their lengthy sets that lasted several hours. Soon, the band started to play further afield and were preparing to release their debut album.

Very Be Careful had recorded their debut album Deception Is Easy with producer by Money Mark, and it was released in 1998. Just a year later, Very Be Careful returned with their sophomore album  Cheap Chillin’ in 1999 which built on the success of their debut album.

Meanwhile, the LA-based band continued to play live and were playing much further afield and everywhere from bars, clubs, arenas and festivals. Night after night, Very Be Careful cranked out their trademark lengthy sets of Colombian vallenato and cumbia. Given how busy Very Be Careful were playing live, it was two years until they returned with their third album.

This was The Rose which was released their first album on the Downtown Pijao label in 2001. It was followed by El Grizz in 2002 which became Very Be Careful’s fourth album. However, it was a while before they released their fifth album.

That was no surprise as Very Be Careful crisscrossed the land of the free, playing to larger crowds. Still though, Very Be Careful were willing to go back to their roots and play bars and clubs with their good time fusion of boogie and Colombian coastal beat. It was proving popular wherever they played, and Very Be Careful enjoyed playing live. 

Despite that, they found time to record their fifth album Ñacas which was released in 2005. Buoyed by the response and success of their new album, Very Be Careful continued to play live, and in 2006 headed to mainland Europe.

Their detonation was Germany, where the soccer World Cup was being played. Very Be Careful were part of what was billed as Germany’s World Cup Tour, which they hoped would introduce their music to a wider audience.

The following year 2007, Very Be Careful released  their sixth album Salad Buey. This was followed in 2009 by Horrible Club which was  a live album pot bootleg recordings released by their record label Downtown Pijao. Horrible Club featured Very Be Careful’s trademark live sound that tens of thousands of people had heard over the past decade.

As a new decade dawned, Very Be Careful released their seventh studio album and eighth overall, Escape Room on the Barbès’ label in 2010. However, when they returned in 2012 with Remember Me From The Party? it was released on Downtown Pijao. It looked like Very Be Careful had returned home.

When Very Be Careful released El Millonario in 2013 it was via Steadybeat Records and Downtown Pig. This was their ninth studio album, and by then, Very Be Careful had played all over North America, Britain, Germany and Japan. The globetrotting band had come a long way since their early days in LA.

Following the release of El Millonario in 2013, Very Be Careful spent most of their time playing live and didn’t release an album for four years. That was until Disfraz was released on OlFactory Records in 2017. This was Very Be Careful’s comeback album, and they were back to stay.

Soon, Very Be Careful were planning to record their eleventh studio album, and twelfth overall. This was Daisy’s Beauty Salon which was recorded in an analog studio that had been abandoned for many years. It was like walking into a world where time stood still, and at the heart of the studio was a sixty-four track analog desk. This was the perfect place for Very Be Careful to record their new album.

“We rushed in there with no planning. The songs weren’t finished and we did it on the spot in two days, with no overdubs. Magic happened because we didn’t talk about it, didn’t brood over how the session was going to go. If we think about it too much, it won’t happen.”

During the sessions, Very Be Careful played a variety of Afro-Colombian genres that had inspired them musically during their formative years. Ricardo and Arturo Guzman can still remember sitting in front of their parent’s record player as children and hearing the rolling drive of uncomplicated but urgent percussion, complex bass lines and dance ready beats. The final piece of this musical jigsaw were the personal stories told by the vocalists. Initially, they were heard only by those within the e vallenato and cumbia communities, but eventually found mainstream success. However, like many genres of music whose popularity rises, it also falls, and vallenato and cumbia fell from grace when it was no longer enjoying mainstream success.

That saddened Arturo who grew up listening to the music, but would play his part in reinventing it and making it relevant.“If you listen to the stuff we listened to, the sixties vallenato that got us started, you’ll hear some really weird chords and stuff happening. If you’re not listening closely, you might miss it. But one or two tracks per album can be super dark with minor chord changes. It’s not stepping out of the tradition. We’re taking it where it could have evolved if it hadn’t been for the pop and commercial labels and their push for lighter, happier sounds. We’re inventing an alternate vallenato history.”

Some of the music that Very Be Careful recorded had a feel-good sound, while other songs were about partying. However, some tracks on Daisy’s Beauty Salon are about their familial roots. Daisy who owned the beauty parlour is Ricardo and Arturo Guzman’s mother and also writes lyrics for the band. This includes more than half the songs on Daisy’s Beauty Salon,

“My mom had a beauty salon in the 70s, in a rough immigrant neighborhood that’s been gentrified, and we’ve been waiting forever to name an album after it, and her…This album is really personal, and based on her experience. She saw the traditional male and female roles in Latin American marriages, then she saw something different here in the States. She was a bit disgruntled about that part of life. These songs contain some personal expression of her frustrations, things that are also political in a way.” 

It’s not unusual for songwriters to add their own personal experiences when using vallenato’s traditional approach to lyrics. Sometimes, machismo-fuelled boasting sessions full of bravado and derring-do are part of the songwriting process. Other times, stories about everyday life and emotion are added. So are the themes of heartbreak, disappointment and betrayal. They’re usually magnified for dramatic effect and emotional impact when they feature on albums. Very Be Careful are no different.

When the members of Very Be Careful and Daisy write songs, sometimes they have added twists and turns and subtleties and surprises to their songs. It’s very much about doing things their way on Daisy’s Beauty Salon. 

“We take the freedom to play whatever we wanted, even though it’s close to a traditional cumbia that someone like Luis Enrique Martínez might play. But at the same time, I’m playing a lot of bass that’s influenced by Caribbean sounds and reggae.” That is apparent throughout Daisy’s Beauty Salon and adds a new dimension to the band’s familiar, trademark sound.

Ricardo seems to enjoyed being freed from the shackles of having to play in a traditional manner. That is apparent on the album opener El Disfraz, It’s a song that masquerades as a way to restart a failing relationship. Arturo describes the song: “It has a circusy sort of feel, as the melody that goes up and down the scale. It’s unique, unlike anything we’ve heard or put on a record before.” It’s also one of the album’s highlights and Arturo tells the story behind the song well. 

The only thing that many people will dispute is Arturo’s statement about the song Dos Corazones. He said of: “Dos Corazones when we first started playing it, people said it sounded like The Cure.” Alas they don’t, and there’s absolutely nothing Cure-like about the song and or the instrumentation used. The only way Dos Corazones would sound like The Cure is by dropping acid. Having said that, Dos Corazones is still a memorable song with an impassioned vocal. However, there’s better songs on Daisy’s Beauty Salon.

This includes El Disfraz, El Desesperado, La Hormiga and La Escuela, which are part of a new beginning for Very Be Careful. They’ve been together for three decades and now have decided to head in a new and different direction.

Daisy’s Beauty Salon finds Very Be Careful heading broadening their musical horizons as they sometimes move away from their trademark mixture of Colombian vallenato and cumbia. However, for much of Daisy’s Beauty Salon, Colombian vallenato and cumbia is the order of the day as Ricardo and Arturo Guzman stay true their musical roots as they work their way through thirteen tracks. The lyrics to many of the songs were  written by Daisy Guzman who owned the beauty parlour referenced in the album title. Her lyrics were brought to life by Very Be Careful as they breezed through the recording of Daisy’s Beauty Salon in a long-lost analog studio. 

Arturo says: “It’s a big deal to us to record in an analog studio. We were really happy to work with our engineer in this really creative environment. It makes for a really unique album we’re really happy with. It’s one of our coolest records.”

Very Be Careful seemed to have been inspired during the recording or Daisy’s Beauty Salon as they moved in new direction musically. Hopefully, that will continue when Ricardo and Arturo Guzman return with the followup to Daisy’s Beauty Salon and Very Be Careful decide to modernise their trademark sound where they combine Colombian vallenato and cumbia. Until them, Very Be Careful’s music will continue to combine Caribbean soul with a California heart just they did on their eleventh studio album Daisy’s Beauty Salon which will be released by Downtown Pijao and Steadybeat Records on the  ‘20h’ July 2018.

Very Be Careful-Daisy’s Beauty Salon.

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