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Guitarist Russell Mofsky rides out of 'Lost Sunset'

The new Gold Dust Lounge album, “Lost Sunset,” is an exhilarating experiment in the elasticity of time and culture, bandleader and guitarist Russell Mofsky taking familiar sounds and references and bending them into something that reverberates with the wild and exotic.

And yet, with its title track, and songs such as the go-go flavored “Bunny Yeager” and moody “Shark Valley,” the album remains a work firmly rooted in the South Florida of Mofsky’s neon-lighted youth in Miami Beach, before he first took a Fender Jazzmaster guitar (found at Glades Guitar on Pines Boulevard) and began producing the elliptical, retro-surf riffs that are a signature of Gold Dust Lounge.

Sounding more like a messenger who has finally arrived with sacred texts, Mofsky is relieved that what he hears on his first studio album is faithful to the music he’s had in his brain for years.

“I’m so glad I was able to execute,” he says.

Mofsky will host a release party for “Lost Sunset” Saturday night at the Nest in Miami, where you can buy the album (CD and vinyl), posters and T-shirts (designed by well-known illustrator and fan Q. Cassetti). Pals from Shark Valley Sisters and the All-Star Rat Opera Band also will perform.

“Lost Sunset” was recorded through most of 2013 with producer Aaron Fishbein at a studio in Miami’s Lemon City, with the final production hurdles cleared with help from a successful $15,000 Kickstarter campaign. Gold Dust Lounge, whose evolving membership includes mainstays Arturo Garcia on drums and Brian Tate on bass, were joined on the album by James Quinlan Jr. on bass, Randy Singer on harmonica, Max Farber on organ, Juan Turros of Suenalo on sax and flutes, and two other special guests, percussionists Akintayo Akinboro and Oyemade Oluwaseun Kabir, from Femi Kuti’s Positive Force Band.

For the past five years, Mofsky has used his Dick Dale-meets-Sonic Youth sound to carve out a unique space on the South Florida music scene. Gold Dust Lounge, which takes its name from the bar at an old Biscayne Boulevard motel, has been a regular presence at the Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, at the Betsy Hotel on Miami Beach, as house band for the Aqua Art Fair in Miami and outside the Harold Golen Gallery during the Wynwood Art Walk.

Several of the songs on "Lost Sunset" come with site-specific inspiration. Mofsky met the late Miami pinup model and photographer Bunny Yeager during her visits to the Harold Golen Gallery for exhibits of her work. It was a match made in retro, go-go heaven, and “Bunny Yeager” is a sexy-saxy opening for the album.

“If you do a search through Bunny’s pictures online, from the ‘60s, I guess, you’ll see some very free-spirited pool parties. Exactly the kind of place Gold Dust Lounge would want to play,” Mofsky says. “I imagine that song being the soundtrack of those parties or of her photo shoots.”

The song “Lost Sunset,” a cinematic mix of menace and romance that might play onscreen as Clint Eastwood gets the girl, takes its inspiration from an 18-month Gold Dust Lounge residency on the water behind the Standard hotel on Miami Beach. The gig ended in December 2012, and the song is a postcard from the past to Mofsky’s future.

“ ‘Lost Sunset’ was in part a lament of that period of the band coming to a close,” Mofsky says. “The time since then has been a bit of a searching time for me. One of the things I took away from that experience was not to underestimate the power of playing in a really beautiful space.”

But perhaps the perfect metaphor for the diverse interplay of South Florida life that is ingrained in the DNA of the album can be found in "Humble Hill,” even though it takes its name from a spot in upstate New York.

The song, propelled by an Afrobeat  bassline and percussion, brings to “Lost Sunset”  a “very different kind of groove,” Mofsky admits. It was co-written by James Quinlan Jr., son of Jim and Laura Quinlan, the world-music champions who run the Rhythm Foundation.

Mofsky was visiting the Quinlans [they met years ago when the Cameo Theater was a rock venue] on their farm near Ithaca, N.Y., jamming and communing with the woods, when James Quinlan Jr. arrived from his home in Brooklyn with an untitled bassline that excited Mofsky. After a couple of days, they worked out a song that took its title from the name of the farm, Humble Hill.     

Flash forward to the recording of “Lost Sunset,” and Mofsky and Fishbein decide to stop in at a soundcheck for a Rhythm Foundation show at Grand Central with Afrobeat star Femi Kuti.  There they  worked out a deal to have two percussionists from Femi’s band come to Fishbein’s studio to help record overdub tracks for “Humble Hill.”

The next morning, Mofsky picked them in his 2002 Toyota Echo, the one with no air-conditioning. The vibe on the ride did not encourage him.

“There are six Nigerians in my little compact car.  It was just this silent, stoic ride from the hotel in downtown Miami,” Mofsky says. The tour manager, from Lagos, spoke English, but didn’t use it. No one addressed Mofsky. “I thought, OK, this is going to be an interesting day.”

But once they got into the studio and the two musicians heard “Humble Hill,” Mofsky says something happened.

The two percussionists quickly swung into a beat, offering suggestions through their tour manager,  and the day that began so frostily ended with eight or nine tracks (some of which are heard on “Humble Hill”), high fives and celebratory peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“The tour manager said, ‘A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a classic American  food, we have to have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,’ ” Mofsky says, with a laugh. “I made the classic: peanut butter, grape jelly, bread. And then I made them more when we packed up and they took them on the road with them. The car ride back to the hotel, it was like we’re all friends. We’d just did this recording together, and everybody’s high-fiving and hugging and smiling.

“It turned into this magical experience that you hear about, music being the universal language,” Mofsky says.  

Gold Dust Lounge performs songs from the new album 8 p.m. Saturday at the Nest (60 NE 14th St., Miami). Shark Valley Sisters and the All-Star Rat Opera Band also perform. Tickets: $5. Info:;

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