As you can imagine, many CDs are submitted to the Music Designers at Mood Media. Sometimes, I’ll admit, there can be a backup at my desk and CDs get shuffled aside to be listened to “when there’s time.” That is never the case when I get an envelope with New West Records stamped on the corner. With a whole roster of my favorite Americana artists (John Hiatt, Steve Earle, Delbert McClinton, Kris Kristofferson, Richard Thompson, Jim Lauderdale…), I usually rip into New West envelopes like it’s Christmas.

Occasionally, the CD in the New West envelope is from an artist I’ve never heard of. Last year it was Robert Ellis that had me listening to his CD over and over. “What’s In It for Me” is a favorite.

This year, it’s Max Gomez. His new CD, Rule the World, arrived and made me sit up and take notice. I was expecting an artist from Texas or Nashville, but was delighted to see Max Gomez calls Taos, New Mexico, his hometown. All of my life, Taos has been a village of respite and retreat for me, my family, and my friends. Just last year my husband and I escaped our usual lives to hole up in a Taos cabin for four days, breathing in the mountain air, enjoying the sight of snow, resting, recuperating, and absorbing the artistic vibe that extends from food to music to art to architecture.

When the “March Madness” called South by Southwest arrived in Austin this year, I was thrilled to see Max Gomez on the roster. I managed to catch his showcase at Threadgill’s on Friday afternoon. A packed room of music lovers experienced him and his guitar and a sideman on the accordion.

Before he finished his first song I thought, “He’s a young Neil Diamond!” Dark hair, dark eyes, and those brooding eyebrows made him look like Neil Diamond, but his voice also is reminiscent of Neil Diamond on his classic songs “I Am, I Said” or “Holly Holy.” But there was something else about Max Gomez that nagged at me until I placed it. He also looks like Jimmy Fallon, the talk show host and comedian. The impish smile, the sly looks to the side, and peeking up from the microphone as if he is a little bit shy or possibly scheming, there’s an air of Jimmy Fallon about Max Gomez. Watch the video, or just look at a photo on his site, and see if you can’t see the resemblance.

A voice that has familiarity, but the music is all Max Gomez. It’s spare, folk, a touch of blues, and enigmatic. And it fits nicely on the shelf with the other artists of New West. And I can’t wait for the next envelope.

– Submitted by Janice Williams, Music Design