For old-school analog types, the enduring power of a lyrical, unaffected singer fronting a tight guitar-bass-drumkit ensemble on an understated, thoughtfully produced recording may seem almost novel at a time when popular music tends increasingly to a loopy, over-produced mélange of beats, synths, pads, effects, midi presets and vocoding. Case in point: Nohe & Sus Santos, an ensemble that, having honed its heterogenous sound the old-fashioned way in small live venues in the vicinity of Santa Fe, New Mexico, now seems poised for launch into a more capacious musical universe.
From Honduras, singer Nohelia Sosa intertwines her evocative alto with the discreet backing of guitarist Randy Sanchez, bassist Justin Bransford, and singer-songwriter-drummer-percussionist Rafael Herrera. They convene fluently where Latin folkloric, pop, canción romántica and rock en español meet R&B, C&W, and rock ‘n’ roll. The consequence is a fluent hemispheric sound attuned to the changing demographics, diversifying complexion, and hybrid vitality of artistic expression north of the Rio Grande, not a line of division or great wall, but an embracing cultural bridge linking with, indeed celebrating what the Americas may yet become.
Nohe is her own artist, while also tapping a resplendent vein recalling that of celebrated singers such as Lila Downs and Gaby Moreno. Herrera, who contributes five originals and co-pens two more, is both an accomplished songwriter and a brilliant harmonic counter to Sosa, as on his compositions “Sirenita,” “Cumbia Buena,” “Cumbia Triste,” and the title track. Bransford’s straight-ahead bass and Sanchez’s wah-wah and tremolo define the overall sound, such as on “Mal Amor” and Osvaldo Farres’s “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás,” the Cuban chestnut thoroughly reimagined here. Just as startling is Nohe’s decidedly non-grungy, reggae-tinged rendition of Kurt Cobain’s “Come as You Are,” the only English-language inclusion. Behold a conjunto with enormous potential: Tempestad (Tempest) is an eloquent offering if not a balm for tormented times. - Michael Stone
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Tempestad is RootsWorld's pick for
Music of the Month for July, 2020
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