The shadowy, sunrise-laden cover of the flamenco guitar/gypsy violin duo's ninth disc reflects the playful spirit of the personalities behind one of world music's most original phenomenons of the last decade. There's always a lightheartedness in their songs, reflective of the Mexican surf region where their partnership began. Yet when it comes to blending traditional elements with modern percussive sensibilities, and showing the rhythmic possibilities of the violin, the tandem is not only serious, but innovative. Manana is one of their most diverse discs, inspired by the experiences they've had playing their gypsy joy for audiences all around the world. Thus, there's the lazy days on Mexican and Hawaiian beaches, seductive dances in the hills of Scaromonte, even an exquisitely exotic Arabian caravan (the mystical, almost experimental closing track "Caravan of Camels"). John Leftwich's production adds some well-placed electronic percussion amidst the more natural soundscaping on tracks like the swaying title tune, and there are some cool electric guitar enhancements. "El Desperado," a song written in the 17th Century Mexican village of San Miguel de Allende (a place near and dear to the duo's heart), mixes a dusty, steel string enhanced Western atmosphere with a mix of electronica and sparse live percussion. Combining all that with a touch of the blues, "La Bolita" is in this vein, but more exotic and romantic. Though this is one of their more intricately produced projects, the simple charming duality that defines Willie & Lobo's charm comes across on more organic tracks like "Fuegando," a powerful polyrhythmic showcase of what they can accomplish when stripped down. Manana couldn't have gotten here too soon.
AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran