Fernando’s troubled folk-rock aches with a wildness it can’t quite contain. His guitars own up to their country and Mexican influences and his voice cries out his sorrow while refusing to ignore the beauty that is around him. Like the album title, Dreams of the Sun and Sky suggests, Fernando may be stuck in his own pain, but he can still hope for something better. While his music may not break any new ground stylistically, Fernando is pushing his own talent to the limit and has a created an album of depth and thoughtfulness.
Fernando mopes along with his unaffected acoustic guitar for the first few songs of Dreams of the Sun and Sky, his voice wrapped in down-home melancholy. His take on sadness is moving and likeable, since he never seems to let it drag him down, especially on “Away”. Soon, though, Fernando shifts away from straightforward grief to the brighter pop of “Blue Room” and the playful “The Fly”. Fernando’s understanding that there is a need for variety is what keeps Dreams of the Sun and Sky from sinking under its own weight.
Fernando’s emotive voice is an appropriate starting point for his music, capable of conveying the broad range of feelings he tackles on Dreams of the Sun and Sky. Although his voice is far from the most expressive, its weariness works well for Fernando’s style and provides an honest, confessional feel to his music. As a guitarist, what he lacks in style he makes up for in passion. He is competent enough to carry this album with enough personality to keep it intriguing, while never trying too hard to attract attention to himself. Fernando’s low-key approach is what keeps Dreams of the Sun and Sky from falling apart.
Truly, though, Fernando’s sadder songs are the more compelling ones, from the stripped-down “Climb” to the powerful “Greenfield”. Fernando seems to search for transcendence in these songs, promising, “You will always have each other, nothing else exists” in the sweet (although slightly preachy) “Hold On”. The jazz-influenced “Only One for Me”, with its mourning brass, complements Fernando as he sings “please won’t you stop your crying. Those tears are a waste of time”. His sensitivity and sympathy give Dreams of the Sun and Sky a tenderness that is sincere.
Fernando constructs his songs like mini-epics. While most only run about four minutes, he packs so much emotion and power into these songs that they feel much larger and longer than they actually are. Because of this, it becomes easier to take each song on its own merits than to try to place it in the larger picture of the entire album. Although the album does have thematic unity, Fernando experiments with different techniques to convey his meaning. On some occasions, like the pretty but forgettable “White Light” and the unintentionally silly “Killer Waits”, this focus on the songs as individual entities tends to work against him. This is only forgivable since Fernando’s stronger songs supersede the weaker ones.
Fernando’s strengths, overall, do outweigh his weaknesses. As a musician, he has his own viewpoint and, while he is not necessarily the most gifted in expressing himself, he manages to project compassion for those who are unhappy. Dreams of the Sun and Sky may not be perfect, but it is heartfelt.
// Notes from the Road
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