When Richard Shindell moved to Buenos Aires in 2000, it seemed logical that his next set of songs would reflect the sights, sounds, and culture of his new home. With each new experience or discovery, it must have been tempting for Shindell to incorporate all those Latin flavors and influences into his songs and, basically, let the surroundings write the music. But with Vuelta he wisely avoids that mistake, and despite a few lyrical flourishes -- seashores, an immigrant, a Spanish lyric -- the music remains grounded in the land of American contemporary folk. Mostly recording in Buenos Aires with the fascinating Argentinean group Puente Celeste, Shindell smartly utilized the talent of the multi-instrumentalists by having them adapt to his style of music. Their enhancements give songs like "Fenario" a deep and complex sound that refrains from overwhelming this old English-styled ballad that recalls the work of traditional British folk interpreter June Tabor. Much like his previous recordings, Shindell has populated Vuelta with fascinating characters. The wistful "The Island" is a classic piano-based Shindell tune about a vacationer who visits a resort and decides to remain in the newfound but ever changing paradise. Revisiting the plight of illegal immigrants he first wrote about in 1994's "Fishing," Shindell tells the tale of a man who hopes to reach America by stowing away aboard a ship leaving Buenos Aires in "Che Guevara T-Shirt." As one of the few song to incorporate a little international flair, the meditative "There Goes Mavis" uses a quiet bossa nova groove to relay the story of a child who blissfully releases her captive pet bird at the beach. Songs like these showcase Shindell's unique storytelling ability. His songs are not simply observations, but intricately drawn characterizations of people and places that play like soundtracks to mini-movies that flicker in a listener's head. While some of the stories may include scenes from his new home, for the most part Shindell's musical visions continue to reflect the expatriate's American roots. Even a carefully selected remake of Pete Seeger's Vietnam-era "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" seems to be a comment on the war in Iraq. Although he is living thousands of miles way, Richard Shindell's music continues to be ensconced in his homeland, and with Vuelta he adds another brilliant volume to his rich musical library of American folk.
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AllMusic Review by Aaron Latham