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Album Review

Sahara, Javier Ruibál's first international release, combines tracks from his previous two Spanish records, 2001's Las Damas Primeras and 1997's Contrabando, and adds a spare track to make the album an original. With a lack of any of his material previously coming out of Spain, Ruibál stands as an entirely new artist on the world music scene. His music is essentially rooted within the flamenco tradition, but with a heavier emphasis on the lyrical content, forming a fully developed poetry around his subjects, usually women. Vocally, Ruibál is one of the more emotive singers one can hear since the passing of El Camarón de la Isla, as he forces his emotions upon the listener regardless of language. Instrumentally, Ruibál is an able guitarist, but gives the front lines of the instrumental work to Tito Alcedo, who plays a good Tomatito to Ruibál's Camarón. There are aspects of North African music incorporated into the compositions, but slyly enough that they're disguised by the flamenco basis. Cuban big band music pops into the picture for the space of a song with a large horn section in "Vino y Besos," and jazz is also quietly incorporated through the occasional addition of a piano or trumpet (such as "Boca de Rosa" and "La Flor de Estambul," the new song), but Ruibál's vocal delivery is essentially unchanged throughout, still performing exquisite flamenco vocals but in a new setting. While the music remains at a high level of performance throughout the course of the album, the focus is always on Ruibál's voice, and it probably should be. Ruibál has an excellent set of chords and displays their prowess very capably, immersing the listener in a wealth of material that's moving on an emotional level and quite good on the technical levels at the same time. Anyone looking for someone who will be a major mover on the flamenco, Javier Ruibál is certainly the person to listen to, and this album is a quality effort.

Sahara, Javier Ruibál
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