Pedro Luis Ferrer: Natural 

CD Review

Spanish is, among other things, a beautiful language to sing in. To these American ears, a grocery list put to a tune can sound lovely. So, one would expect that a disc like Cuban artist Pedro Luis Ferrer's latest, Natural, would warm the heart and ears of such a listener. Sadly, one would be wrong.

It's not for lack of trying. Ferrer has a rich voice, and he knows his way around vocal harmonies. Whether he's rolling his low tenor tones over "Tonada Del Siquitraque" or sweetly combining voices with his vocal partner (and daughter), the singing is smooth and strong like good rum. His backing band, versed in a rural Cuban style known as changüisa, are up to his level, giving the percussion and guitar a warm tropical feel. Unfolding around you like a warm hammock, this would probably be good music to unwind to on a beach. Every note, every measure is an exercise in island rhythm and song.

This laid-back vibe, however, is its downfall. All the songs unfold at a similarly languid pace, and there's no sense of lyrical and musical import carried in the tones and delivery. Only "Como Primavera" makes any attempt to interrupt this flow with a more reflective take on its intricate guitar parts, and since it's the last track on the album, it feels like a case of too little, too late. Admittedly, part of this perception is due to the fact that I don't speak Spanish; a different interpretation would likely be in order if I understood the lyrics. As it is, all I have to judge by are voices and music, and while lovely to behold, loveliness is simply not enough. Ferrer's latest is ultimately a disposable experience, pretty to hear and instantly forgettable once the last notes fade.

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