Sierra Maestra

Rumberos de la Havana

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AllMusic Review by

These masters of son, through their long history of excellence and taste, join the ranks of such artists as Muddy Waters, June Carter Cash, and los Munequitos de Matanzas for presenting their rich musical tradition with freshness and creativity. As with the aforementioned musicians, Sierra Maestra's sound is both decades old and as vital and new as the first day it rang through the streets. The title could be misleading to North American audiences, seeing as rhumba, in the guaguancó, fiery quinto, and fat tumbadora sense seldom appear on this record. Rather clave, bongo, tres, and compana are the primary voices in this rhumba (meaning in this context "party music"). With the exception of a little distorted guitar on "Tintorera a Ya Llego," which has the effect of a rhinoceros at a dinner party, Sierra Maestra's playing and arrangements are as fine as ever. So many percussion-focused albums emanate from the island that it is refreshing that Rumberos de la Havana raises up the vocal tradition as Cuba's crown jewel. The sonero's voice is nothing shy of molten gold. Sierra Maestra's 1999 release Rumberos de la Havana floats to the ear like milky curls of thick cigar smoke, and goes down smooth, rich, and sweet, like the finest rum.

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