Hector Tellez Jr.'s debut album introduces us to a singular talent who harkens back to the glory days of rock stardom. Guests include Peter Buck and Krist Novoselic.
In his homeland of Cuba, Hector Tellez Jr. has been celebrated as a musical maverick, drawing in a passionate audience that can't get enough of his swagger that was once relegated to rock stars of a different era.
What sets Tellez apart is his incredible vocal prowess and virtuosic guitar skills. He's not just making a name for himself in Cuba; his talent has caught the attention of some of America's most iconic musicians. The likes of Peter Buck and Krist Novoselic lent their talents to his debut album, The Great Unknown. Arriving on Raul Malo's Mono Mundo label, the album was produced by one time Screaming Trees drummer, Barrett Martin.
It's important to understand the roots of Tellez's musical journey. He's the son of the Cuban legend, Hector Tellez Sr., a renowned bolero singer with a career spanning decades. While Tellez Jr. could have easily followed his father's lead, he found his own path, embarking on a journey to teach himself how to play the blues and rock that he loved. Led Zeppelin and Stevie Ray Vaughn became his guides, introduced to him through bootleg cassettes swapped with friends. Those led to blues legends like Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson which he and his friends devoured. According to Tellez, "There was no YouTube available in Cuba at that time, so we had to be resourceful, and finding cassettes by people like Robert Johnson was like finding gold."
Honing his craft, Tellez performed for two hours a night at one of Havana's hard-to-find rock clubs. He blended covers with his original compositions, creating a unique sound that stood out in a landscape dominated by his father's pop crooning style. Meanwhile, he learned from his father's ability to convey emotion with simplicity, an experience that resonated deeply with him. Tellez's breakthrough moment came when he caught the ear of American artist Betty Malo while playing at Havana's legendary Fabrica de Arte. Malo offered to open doors for him in the United States, recognizing the limited opportunities for him in Cuba. The singer spent two years in the heart of Nashville's Printers' Alley, where many young musicians hone their skills. It was here that he was introduced to Barrett Martin.
Martin was immediately captivated by Tellez's talent. He saw in him the potential for greatness, a rare combination of a powerful voice and incredible guitar skills. Martin, a respected musician and producer who has worked with legends like Layne Staley, Mark Lanegan, and Michael Stipe, didn't hold back in his praise. He believed that Tellez could become a massive star, highlighting his elegance and Jeff Buckley-like mystical quality. So Martin then brought in Buck and Novoselic who became believers as well.
The Great Unknown is the result of this collaboration. The title holds profound meaning for Tellez, symbolizing the unpredictability of creativity. His musical journey has been about following his intuition, never knowing where it would lead. He emphasizes the need to humble oneself and embrace the unknown. The album opens with a riff inspired by the Argentinian music style of Milonga, filtered through the rock and blues influences of his teenage years, creating something entirely unique.
Mystical and spiritual themes permeate the album. The opening lyrics of "If You Want To Come" convey a sense of letting go and finding peace amidst the unfolding world. It's a reflection of Tellez's journey and his willingness to go with the flow.
The Great Unknown is just the beginning of what promises to be a storied rock career. It seamlessly weaves the spiritual and the profane, offering a unique perspective on the philosophical questions that have fascinated many Latin writers. All of this is set against the backdrop of some of the best rock music around.