Pedro Luis Ferrer
Rústico (Escondida ESC6507-2, 2005)
It’s not a particularly defiant look sported by the half-seen face of Pedro Luis Ferrer on the cover of this disc. He’s a guy who wants to do Cuban music his way, however, and if that means blending elements of styles like changüí, son and trova that others prefer to keep separate, so be it. If it means featuring the accomplished vocals of his daughter Lena to the extent that her name should be above the title as well, fine. If it means a song poking fun at vegetarians who abstain from meat most Cubans can’t get because of shortages, bring it on.
Rústico is a raw and refreshing work that never loses the familiar kick of Cuban roots music yet doesn’t rely on quaintness or nostalgia, unlike many releases finding their way out of Cuba recently. The main melodic instrument at work here is the guitar-like tres, its bright strumming complimented by percussion that often takes on a distinctly African edge.
Vocally, the gently impassioned leads and full-blooded choruses draw you into the songs in a manner warm and welcoming. The songs themselves are poetic meditations on love, music, the frustrations of life in contemporary Cuba and hopeful musings in spite of such frustrations.
Easy as it is to get burned out on Cuban music these days, this disc is really one you ought to gravitate toward. With low-key excellence it conveys the feel of a country that carries the stigma of downtrodden repression even while bursting with musical and cultural richness.