José Luis Figuereo Franco, better known as El Barrio (a name he took in tribute to the Santa Maria neighborhood of Cádiz where he was born), is one of a few artists who have pushed the borders of flamenco both farther and wider. "My music sounds like flamenco, because I am a flamenco man, but people mustn't get mixed up saying the music I make is flamenco." Influenced by the Andalusian rock scene, El Barrio argues that his musical path is closer to artists like Triana, Alameda, Medina Azahara, and Cai than traditional flamenco. That said, his past is certainly steeped in flamenco tradition. Before gaining any renown as a vocalist, he was a guitarist playing in the restaurants and bars of Madrid and Cadiz, embarking on a performance career even before his teen years.
After his debut solo record in 1996, El Barrio recorded regularly, with consistently positive reviews, if not impressive sales. His audience knew him not only as an expert musician, but as a poet as well, paying utmost attention to the lyrical content of his music, untypical for flamenco artists. His 2005 release, Playas de Invierno for the Senador label, found him making very accessible music, even for those unfamiliar with flamenco.
El Barrio continued his prolific career with the chart-topping 2007 album La Voz de Mi Silencio. Two years later, Duermevela pushed the boundaries of flamenco fusion and incorporated an increased amount of rock into his evolving sound. 2011's Espejos returned to the roots of his blend of flamenco and Andalusian rock to his fans' delight, with the single "El Viejo Verano" showcasing his poetic lyrics and traditional flamenco heritage. The box set compilation Hasta el Fin de los Tiempos appeared in 2012.
El Barrio took a little more time with his 11th major album, but when Hijo del Levante was finally released in late 2014, it became a number one hit in Spain, his first in some time. The album continued to chart very high into 2015. ~ Evan C. Gutierrez