Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Puerto Rico [Putumayo World Music, 2000]
These earnest craftspeople you never heard of feed off and into a folkloricismo of uncommon naturalness and grace--fueled by a Third World economy with loads of loose money in it, and lubricated by ease of movement between two different worlds. Too hip to the States to mess up their cultural pride with xenophobia, on good terms with the commercial danceability of their salsa-pumping Nuyorican cousins, they choose to serve the bomba of the black settlements, the plena of Ponce, the seis of the mountainous center. Although these tracks abound in indigenous percussion and don't shun horns or pianos, their defining sound is the lilt of the 10-string cuatro--rural yet sophisticated, romantic with a beat. Would that preservationists in Cuba and West Africa could float such a utopian groove. A-