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Bold Blend of Music From Young Bandito

Confident guitarist Beto Lovato and his band mix rock, blues and more. See them at Smokin' Johnnie's.


Beto Lovato, who plays Smokin' Johnnie's on Friday evening, is not the self-effacing type.

"Everyone should come out and see one of the best young guitar players around today," he says. "That's me!"

Lovato, 25, was born and raised in Albuquerque, where his father was a professional musician. "By the time I was 5 or 6, I was doing gigs, playing with friends in my dad's band," he says.

When he was 11, the father and son moved to Los Angeles. The younger Lovato attended the Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood and graduated when he was 12 years old.

He formed a band, the Neato Banditos, which won the talent search at the Long Beach Blues Festival in 1990. Since then, the band has worked the L.A. club scene, performing a mix of blues, country, Tex-Mex and rock styles.

Lovato lists his faves--country's Hank Williams, Johnny Paycheck and Dwight Yoakam; the blues' B.B. King, Albert King and Freddie King; and traditional Mexican music's Vicente Fernandez.

"You can feel the life experience that they put into their music," he said. "Sad, glad, mad--all those experiences, all those emotions are in their art at all times. That's what turns me on."

Lovato also had a chance to study with legendary blues man Willie Dixon before Dixon's death in 1992.

"The posture, the phrasing, the attitude--he worked a lot with me on that," Lovato says. "We paid attention to details and the big picture, too."

Lovato, who lives in Highland Park, just released his first CD, "The Color of Blood," on Shattered Music. The album reflects Lovato's wide musical interests. Some tunes are in Spanish, such as "Linda Negra Tejana," but most are in English. One tune, "Mouth Full of Lies," is evocative of Johnny Bond's 1960 hit "Hot Rod Lincoln." All feature Lovato's vocals and guitar.

* Beto Lovato performs Friday night at Smokin' Johnnie's, 11720 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. No cover. Call (818) 760-6631.

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