Here Are 4 Latin Albums To Get You Through This Summer | Texas Public Radio

Here Are 4 Latin Albums To Get You Through This Summer

Jul 15, 2018
Originally published on August 9, 2018 12:28 pm

Every month, Alt Latino's Felix Contreras drops by Weekend Edition to share his recommendations for new music and the best music yet to come. This year, Latin artists old and new are dropping new albums, including a reissue from a Buena Vista Social Club alumnus, a punk pioneer's concept album about the American dream and a sophisticated crossover collaboration featuring a '90s protest song repurposed for the current immigration debate. Hear the full conversation with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro at the audio link and listen to the featured tracks below.

Orlando "Cachaíto" López, Cachaíto (reissue)

In addition to being the bassist for the Buena Vista Social Club, Cachaíto is from very storied lineage: His father Orestes López and uncle Israel "Cachao" López are often credited with having a hand in creating the rhythm we now know as mambo. This album didn't get the recognition it deserved when it came out in 2001, but it swerved away from the tradition of the Buena Vista Social Club and explored Afro-Cuban music in a way that laid the groundwork for many other Cuban releases since then — no doubt part of the reason why it's being reissued now.

Alejandro Escovedo, The Crossing

Alejandro Escovedo has led a number of bands over the years that have explored the intersections of everything from punk and country to punk and chamber music to punk and singer-songwriter. His entire career is notable for intelligent, passionate, music that avoids the stale sides of the mainstream styles it flirts with.

Escovedo's latest album, The Crossing, comes out Sept. 14. It's a suite of songs about two teenage immigrants who come to the United States: Salvo from Italy and Diego from Mexico. The album chronicles their experience looking for the American dream — which, in their case, includes music from punk pioneers The Stooges and MC5. (The first single, "Sonica USA," is out now and features Wayne Kramer of MC5 on guitar.) Over the course of the record, they find instead a culture that embraces blandness, tolerates racism and turns away immigrants.

Gaby Moreno & Van Dyke Parks

An immigrant to the United States from Guatemala, Gaby Moreno is aware of the issues that affect immigrants to this country today. Last week, she lent her voice to the chorus of musicians protesting what was a national policy of family separation at the border. "The Immigrants" is the first song from an as yet untitled album expected in the fall. It marks a fascinating new adventure for Moreno, who recorded this album with composer, arranger, and producer Van Dyke Parks, a musician's musician who has made records with the likes of Brian Wilson and others since the 1960s. The single gives you an idea of what to expect: really lush arrangements with lots of musical allusions in the instruments, rhythms and lyrics.

Twanguero, Electric Sunset

Spain's Diego García puts his own spin on American twang. Better known as Twanguero, the guitarist mines what he calls "Latin twang" on his new album, Electric Sunset. Growing up in Spain, García studied flamenco guitar, but he became fascinated with Western swing and ragtime from the United States and developed a sound and technique to forge his own distinct sound. Even director Pedro Almodóvar had used his sound in his films. This track, "Rasca Yu," features the Lebanese violinist Ara Malikian.

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Are you looking for some music to get you through the summer? Well, Felix Contreras of NPR Music's Alt.Latino is here to talk about some upcoming albums that got him excited and that you might want to check out.

(SOUNDBITE OF CACHAITO'S "WAHIRA")

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Felix, welcome.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Good morning. Good morning. Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What are we listening to? I love it.

CONTRERAS: OK. This is a new album that's actually old. This is Orlando Cachaito Lopez or just Cachaito. But this is a rerelease of an album that came out in 2001. Cachaito was the bassist for the Buena Vista Social Club. He's also from very storied lineage. His father and uncle, Orestes and Israel, now, they're often credited with having a hand in creating the rhythm we know as mambo, believe it or not.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, wow.

CONTRERAS: So his uncle Israel also played bass. And he was known as Cachao, so Cachao, Cachaito - little Cachao.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah.

CONTRERAS: Get it?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Got it. Got it. Got it.

CONTRERAS: This album didn't get the recognition it deserved, I think, back in 2001. It swerved away from the tradition of the Buena Vista Social Club and explored Afro-Cuban music in a way that laid the groundwork for so many other Cuban releases since then. It's remastered. It's repackaged with a 12-page booklet with history and pictures and a way-cool 180-gram heavyweight vinyl. This track is called "Wahira."

(SOUNDBITE OF CACHAITO'S "WAHIRA")

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what else do we have to get us into summer? Because it is important for me because I am actually going on vacation.

CONTRERAS: Oh, my gosh.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I want some recommendations.

CONTRERAS: OK. All right, so - all right. Check this out. We have two singles from two of the most talented Latin musicians out there, each in their own way expressing the depth of Latin expression. And I'm so excited about this first one. This is Alejandro Escovedo.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO SONG, "SONICA USA")

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That's got some jam.

CONTRERAS: There you go.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO SONG, "SONICA USA")

CONTRERAS: If you don't know Alejandro Escovedo, he is the punk queen of Latin music, OK? Now, he's led a number of bands over the years that have explored punk and country, punk and chamber music and punk singer-songwriter. Now, my take - his entire career is notable for intelligent, passionate, finely crafted music that's always just curious enough to keep a respectable distance from the lame part of the...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

CONTRERAS: ...Mainstream, OK?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That sounds a little judgy there.

CONTRERAS: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But I'll let you get away with it.

CONTRERAS: This new album is called "The Crossing." And it's a suite of songs about two young teenage immigrants who come to the U.S. - Salvo from Italy and Diego from Mexico. And the album chronicles their experience looking for the American dream.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That sounds timely.

CONTRERAS: And in their case, the American dream includes music from punk pioneers The Stooges and MC5. And what they find through the course of the record is a culture that accepts blandness, endorses racism and turns away immigrants. And it's all expressed through song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SONICA USA")

ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO: (Singing) Little Johnny (unintelligible) MC5. (Unintelligible) classic five. (Unintelligible) This is America. I want it all. Feel the power, the people's parade. Sonica USA.

CONTRERAS: I think this may be Alejandro Escovedo's best album yet. It's going to be released in September 14. But this single, "Sonica USA," is out now. And it features Wayne Kramer of MC5 on guitar.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wow. Speaking of timely, you just published a podcast about musicians who are using their art to protest the policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border. And one of the artists you featured was Gaby Moreno. And you brought in some new music from her, as well.

CONTRERAS: Yes. Now, Gaby Moreno is originally from Guatemala. And she's very aware of the issues that affect immigrants. And she lent her voice in a song toward the chorus of people who are protesting what was a policy of separating families at the border.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE IMMIGRANTS")

GABY MORENO: (Singing) America, remember Ellis Island. We all came here to take the plunge.

CONTRERAS: This track is called "The Immigrants." And it's from another album that's expected in the fall. It marks a fascinating new adventure for Gaby because she's recorded this album with a guy named Van Dyke Parks, who's sort of a musician's musician. You know, he's an arranger, writer. He made records with Brian Wilson and a bunch of other folks since the 1960's. This new single gives you an idea of what to expect. There's really lush arrangements with lots of musical references in the instruments, the rhythms and the lyrics.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE IMMIGRANTS")

MORENO: (Singing) Like a punta, rock and the salsa samba. (Singing in Spanish).

In other words, yeah. This is a different kind of apple now - New York City.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But I take it for our last song, we're going to go in a bit of a different direction.

CONTRERAS: Completely different direction, OK? This is a guy from Spain named Diego Garcia. He's also known as El Twanguero - or twang, right - a guitarist who minds what he calls Latin twang. And it sounds like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF TWANGUERO SONG, "RASKA YU")

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, how interesting.

(SOUNDBITE OF TWANGUERO SONG, "RASKA YU")

CONTRERAS: OK. He was raised in Spain. He studied flamenco with teachers. But then he became fascinated with western swing and ragtime from here in the U.S. And along the way, he developed his sound and technique that just is clearly his, right? He forged a path doing things his way with a very distinct sound. People like director Pedro Almodovar had used his twanguero sound in his films. His new album is called "Electric Sunset." This track is called "Raska Yu." And it features a Lebanese violinist by the name of Ara Malikian.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RASKA YU")

DIEGO GARCIA: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And on that note - literally - Felix Contreras is the host of Alt.Latino from NPR Music. Once a month, he drops by to restock our playlists. I now have something to listen to on vacation.

CONTRERAS: Have a good time on vacation. Keep that foot tapping.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RASKA YU")

GARCIA: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.