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Los Alamos National Laboratory employees Lawrence Trujillo,left, and Eric Yee have played with several of New Mexico legends.
Los Alamos National Laboratory employees Lawrence Trujillo,left, and Eric Yee have played with several of New Mexico legends.

Eric Yee and Lawrence Trujillo, who both work at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s plutonium facility, known as TA-55, have a knack for bringing music to people’s ears.

Yee and Trujillo have played with the late Al Hurricane (known as the “godfather of New Mexico Music”), his son Al Hurricane Jr., Lorenzo Antonio, and the all- female-band Sparx.

“It was TA-55 in Los Alamos that brought us together,” Yee said. “I was jamming with a guitarist by the name of Harold Sanchez in the crafts breakroom. One day Lawrence walked around the corner, and Harold tells me, ‘You know, Lawrence here plays guitar also.’ When I heard him play, all I could say was, ‘whoa!’ ”

A common hidden talent

“I picked up the guitar when I was about 13,” Trujillo said. “I used to listen to my dad and uncles play, and I asked them if they could teach me. They showed me a few things, and it just took off from there.”

“For me, I was inspired by these other kids at school walking around carrying their guitar cases,” Yee said. “So, at age 13 I took a class on how to play guitar, to find out what it was like. I’ve never looked back.”

Trujillo prefers country music and Yee rock ’n’ roll, but both men found a mutual love of Música Nuevo Méxicana (New Mexico Music), a genre of music that builds upon Hispanic folk music with American country, blues, jazz, rockabilly, and pop-driven rock ’n’ roll. This type of music really took off during the 1970s, with artists such as Al Hurricane and Freddie Brown popularizing the musical genre.

A well-rounded working relationship

Yee and Trujillo have learned that each band leader brings with him or her certain ways of working.

“When I hear the beginnings of a song, the first thing I like to do is figure out its rhythm,” Trujillo said. “Once I have a good idea about the song’s rhythmic structure, I can begin to work on the guitar hooks and leads.”

“It’s a little different for me,” Yee said. “Like when I was working with Al Senior, he would send down a song complete with the lyrics. So, for me I go to (Trujillo) to help me out with the phrasing, from which I build the rhythm. I like the spontaneity of rock music, but when it comes to songs with strong melody lines, the guitar’s rhythm needs to complement the phrasing of the words.”