Salsa Celtica

El Agua de la Vida

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The name of this band is liable to raise misleading expectations, so let's take care of those first of all: If you approach this album expecting a melting-pot fusion of Celtic and Cuban musical styles, you will be disappointed (or, perhaps, relieved). What this band is really offering is Cuban music, in the middle of which you will occasionally be able to discern a fiddle, plectrum banjo, or whistle skirling out an Irish or Scottish melody. On tunes like "Cumbia Celtica" and "Whiskey con Ron," especially, the banjo and Uillean pipes have sort of a stapled-on feeling, as if they were thrown into the mix at the last moment and are having to take care not to be trampled by the big horn section and multi-layered Latin percussion. In short, this band's music is far more "salsa" than "Celtica." But really, so what? What matters is that the album rocks, swings, and bops relentlessly. This is one of the most exhilarating albums of the year; if "Sol de la Noche" and "Maestro" don't have you dancing around your living room with fruit on your head, you need your pulse checked, and the band's headlong take on "Auld Lang Syne" is both hilarious and brilliant. Highly recommended.

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