Though Javier Ruibal is from Spain (Cadiz), is accompanied by flamenco guitars and is singing in Spanish, there's little on "Sahara" that's easily aligned with contemporary Latin music. The relatively isolated locale from which Ruibal hails is as influenced by Africa as Andalusia, and Ruibal's music is equally diverse, with a sound that's worldly and intimate. When he revs things up -- the niftily infectious "Vino y Besos," for instance -- some danzon elements emerge in the rhythmic structures and piano lines, but largely, Ruibal comes off as a pan-ethnic troubadour. Lyrically driven by (what else?) love and love lost, much of "Sahara" (which compiles the best of Ruibal's two most recent albums) is hopelessly romantic. Thankfully, it's not bogged down with messy musical clichés, and the result is incredibly refreshing.
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