Michael Stuart

Back to Da Barrio

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Michael Stuart claims to bring it home on his 2006 release Back to da Barrio, and after a career that has flirted with the urban as much as claimed the Latino, this record definitely makes good on its boast. While there are plenty of hints that this isn't your abuelita's salsa, salsa it is nonetheless. Leaving his drum sequencer at home for these sessions, the instrumentation and arrangement are more akin to the likes of Oscar d'León than the hip-hop-tinged Stuart audiences have come to know. The preceding record, Sin Miedo, harkened to the dance club or the cruisin' strip as much as it did the salsa dancehall. Not so in his first project for the Machete Music label, which is ironic, considering the urban slant of the majority of their productions. The round, rich tone of the record seems to emulate the fat '70s timbre of New York salsa's heyday. Stuart brings a certain barrio bad-boy quality to all of his projects, and that is certainly present, despite the classic aesthetic. Hearing Stuart in this context feels quite natural, and the results of the new direction are rockin'. The writing is among the hippest in modern salsa, and the stylistically savvy band, including some guaguancó, bomba, and comparsa sounds fresh and enticing. Old style with a new attitude is a great combination, in Stuart's hands.

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