Guitarist Johannes Linstead grew up in Canada (where he still lives part of each year) with a father from England (with a Spanish background) and a mother from Germany (hence, presumably, his first name, pronounced yo-han-es). But Johannes also grew up traveling with his family in Spain, Mexico, South America and the Caribbean; and as an adult he embraced the Latin culture by living part-time in the Dominican Republic and by becoming one of the best and most-popular Latin-style guitarists. This is exemplified on his latest recording, Azul, a collection of a dozen beautiful original Latin tunes.

He seems to out-do himself with each new release. How he composes such great new tunes year after year with each new album is a wonder. To keep things new and fresh and invigorating for him and his audience, he tries some new things here. He adds electric Latin-style guitar to his always remarkable acoustic Latin-style playing. This is harder than it might seem because a nylon-string acoustic is easier to play (and easier on the fingertips) than a steel-string guitar, and there are several other major differences as well, but Linstead does an admirable job and we can only hope he continues to mix in electric playing in the future. He also sings in English on “Be My Girl” (although there is an instrumental version too) and he sings in Spanish on “Hechicera.” His voice is good, but not exceptional like his guitar playing and composing.

The album begins with two uptempo pieces, “Azul” and “Cha Cha Chu,” the former featuring acoustic guitars and the latter electric guitar and horns (including a trumpet solo!). The middle section of the album has slower and more gentle numbers such as the pretty “Lazy Sunday,” the acoustic “Surrender To Me,” the acoustic-and-electric guitar duet of “Heaven Meets Earth” and the reggae-tinged “Moon Child.” On “Dance of the Shaman” (with Johannes adding wood flute!) the piece varies back and forth from slow to uptempo. The acoustic soloing on that tune is wonderful. “Starlight” is a very rhythmic, vibrant track with a Santana type of electric guitar solo and some muted trumpet. Very festive and fiery and fast is “Friday Night at Babaluu” with the spotlight moving from acoustic to electric to trumpet to piano. The album ends with the instrumental version of “Be My Girl,” absolutely delicious with its melding of acoustic and electric guitars feeding off each other.

This record is delectable from start to finish. Don’t just digitally pay for and download a track or two. Treat yourself to the entire thing. You won’t be disappointed. And if you have several of Linstead’s other albums and you are asking yourself if you need another one, the answer is “yes.”