Citizen Staff Writer
Discs highlight fresh Latin sounds
It’s that time again, when we’ve gone through our pile of promo CDs and found some keepers. Here are four Latin music record ings worth checking out.
“Shake Away” (Manhattan Records)
World music chanteuse Lila Downs follows up 2006′s “La Cantina” with “Shake Away,” a melange of folk, blues, rock and Latin tracks that is a stark departure in mood and sound from her previous collection of Mexican drinking songs.
Nine of the 16 composi tions are in English (the most for any Downs CD) and are more political and romantic than “Cantina’s” introspective, depressing songs.
The disc features six all star collaborations: with La Mari of Spanish flamenco chill group Chambao, Cafe Tacvba lead singer Ruben Albarran, American R&B star Raul Midon, rocker Enrique Bunbury of Spain, Mexican folk musician Gilberto Gutierrez and leg endary Argentine folk singer Mercedes Sosa. The best of these pairings are “Ojo de Culebra” (with La Mari), which draws listen ers in with its Latin-Middle Eastern beat and dramatic tale of catharsis; the politi cally charged “Justicia” in which Downs and Bunbury take aim at injustice; and the gorgeous, heartfelt bal lad “Tierra de Luz” with Sosa, who shares an Indian heritage with Downs (the daughter of a Mexican Mixtec mother and Scottish American father).
“Shake Away” also sports three covers that – with her creative rework ing – seem like Downs’ originals. She adds the female perspective in her bilingual take of “Black Magic Woman” with Midon. She also offers a version of Scottish band Blue Nile’s ballad “I Would Never” that differs from (but is just as beauti ful as) the earlier live ver sion on iTunes, with more guitar and less of a Celtic sound. Her third cover, of alt-country singer-song writer Lucinda Williams’ love song “I Envy the Wind,” flows with passion and longing. It’s offered in both English and Spanish versions.
Available only in English is the politically timely “Minimum Wage,” in which Downs addresses illegal immigration in a worker’s story set to a blues-rock beat.
“Shake Away” is Downs’ most ambitious and person al CD, with a mix of mate rial that is as satisfying as it is eclectic.
“The Rough Guide to Latin Lounge” (World Music Network)
For those unfamiliar with The Rough Guides, they’re a group of discs that try to introduce CD buyers (and MP3 down loaders) to new music.
This time around the genre is Latin lounge, and the compilation, just like most of its predecessors, is a stellar collection of fun and fresh tracks.
The global sounds, according to the CD sleeve, include “nu-bossa from Madrid, barrio funk from Venezuela, Cuban ska from Havana, samba-jazz from New York, boogaloo blues from Cali, and soulful Latin house from London.”
Kicking things off is one of the best tracks, “Kind of Latin Rhythm” by The Juju Orchestra, which is based in Germany. “This is a kind of Latin rhythm known as bossa nova, but it’s not really bossa nova,” repeats the singer in his deep, ultra-cool voice as the band plays its funkti fied version of Brazilian jazz.
Other standouts include “Bandolero” by music collective Novalima, which offers listeners a sample of their “afro-Peruvian-electronica”; “No Me Digas Nada” by Malena and “Calma” by Bah Samba, which blend bossa nova and electroni ca; and soulful cumbia “Tu Fiesta Personal” by Mo’ Horizons.
Bostich + Fussible
“Tijuana Sound Machine” (Nacional Records)
Nortec Collective mem bers Bostich + Fussible continue the Mexican band’s exploration of tech no- electronica-norteño banda fusion in “Tijuana Sound Machine.”
If you’d never thought you’d hear an accordion at a rave, think again.
Surprisingly, the disparate sounds go well together – like flour tortillas and peanut butter and jelly.
If deliciously loca can ciones like “The Clap,” “Norteña Del Sur,” “Tijuana Sound Machine” and “Akai 47″ don’t get your feet moving, you might want to have your circulation checked.
Trust us, there’s nothing worse than having falter ing circulation.
“Picotero” (Nacional Records)
Electronic duo Monareta have broken into the Latin dance scene with their impressive U.S.
The group, which splits its time between Bogotá and Brooklyn, blends cumbia and champeta (the Afro-Colombian genre native to the streets of the country’s Caribbean coast) with breakbeat and dub.
The result is a fresh sound that mixes the best of the old and the new.
Nowhere is that more evident than in standout track “Llama,” whose influences of cumbia, reg gae and electronica com bine to form an irresistible modern dance beat with a Latin twist.
Add Monareta to the long list of talented and creative musical exports from Colombia.