The Dominican community in the New York area is the biggest outside the Caribbean, and its musical traditions are a big part of its vibrancy. Its annual festival in Washington Heights features Dominican music, and some of the artists who perform at the festival appear here, covering not only the native high-energy meringue, but every aspect of Dominican music, be it the palos of Conjunto Folklorico de Alianza Dominicana or the son of Coco Merenson. A lot of this music is folkloric, as befits the Smithsonian Folkways label, but it's never less than marvelously entertaining, like the salve of Francia Reyes, where the vocals rise effortlessly above the drums. "La Multona," from Neri Olivares, features a scintillating, delicate play of melody, showing how Dominicans have developed the Cuban son into their own art form. But don't be misled by the techno-bachata tag on Luis Dias' "La Manguera"; it has nothing to do with electronic music (although Dias does also play bachata-rock in addition to this slower, gentler sound). There's no doubting the dance appeal of the accordion-led meringue tracks. Franklyn Hernandez is masterful on them, leading an ensemble (with a terrific sax player) through the adrenalized workouts. This album doesn't claim to be a complete representation of the Dominican musical experience in New York, by any means -- but it'll do for a start.
AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson