Jim ParisiMusic Review

Maicol Leroy’s San Juanillo

maicol leroyBy Jim Parisi

Make no mistake about it, Maicol Leroy has been Ticoized. Don’t get me wrong, I mean this as a compliment and I know he would be the first one to consider it as such. Hey, the guy has even Latinized his name… Sr. Leroy has been coming to Guanacaste for nearly a quarter of a century and living here for almost two decades. He has been playing guitar and harp since well before puberty. Take these two components, mix in a little stage experience, an early exposure to the blues and great songwriting ability and voila: you’ve got the new self-produced album “San Juanillo” by Maicol Leroy.

Jaime Peligro Books and Music

Eight of the twelve songs on this album were penned by Leroy, with two exceptions being the traditional Spanish songs “Cielito Lindo” and “Luna Liberiana” and Leroy’s translated versions of the blues classic “Summertime” (“Veranillo”) and the folk standard “500 Miles” (“Quinientos Millas) on this set. One impressive thing about his original cuts is that the ex-pat has written them in Spanish, complete with tongue-in-cheek humor, an overall commendable accomplishment, indicative of where Maicol’s heart has lead him: his Ticoization. Leroy’s voice is a nice vehicle for the pace and style of the disc, not to mention his guitar and slide guitar work, along with his harmonica playing and banjo picking. Impressive, indeed. Maicol is accompanied on piano by Bob Hays and “John from Pinilla” on drums. Leroy also had the good “privilege and pleasure”, as he puts it, to enlist legendary musician Al Shackman (Nina Simone, Aretha, Harry Belafonte, The Drifters, Ben E. King) to add his signature guitar work on a few of the songs. The two met at a jam in Tilaran, played a gig at Casa Agua on Lake Arenal, them went into the “open” studio in Lagartillo, which was literally open to the elements. The results produced a marriage between musician and Mother Nature, who backs him up with a variety of her instruments including wind, rain, monkeys, frogs, surf, owls, chickens and roosters.

It is apparent that one of Maicol Leroy’s goals with this project was to build a bridge between his American Folk & Blues roots and the boleros and traditional musical styles of Latin America and more specifically of Guanacaste. His humor in songs like “Gringolandia” add to this unique blend of styles, as well as the surprise I had hearing a banjo played in a bolero-style song, for example. The result is what I refer to as an “up” album. It moves right along. Even the slower, more poetic songs have a positive pulse to them.

Most ex-pats who move here have a story about a defining moment that helped them decide to take the plunge. I know I do. Maicol told me that his came about five years after he had bought a piece of property and built a place to stay on it while he was staying here. On this trip, he had purchased a return ticket for five months after his arrival. When that day rolled around, he decided that the surf was just too nice to leave and just like that, the Ticoization of Maicol Leroy was on its way.

San Juanillo is available at all three Jaime Peligro shops in Tamarindo, Quepos and Tilaran, where they will gladly sample the music for their customers.