Alex Cuba Agua del Pozo

Five years ago it would have been inconceivable that some of the most inimitable Cuban music today was coming not from the land of the son or the barrios of New York but an isolated, rural area of British Columbia, in the form of a baby-faced, afro-haired, Cuban immigrant that could surpass Seu Jorge in coolness factor. Known simply enough as Alex Cuba, he has quietly built a name for himself, winning the Juno award for Best World Music Album in 2006. With the release of Agua del Pozo, Cuba has clearly cemented himself at the forefront of Latin alternative/pop music. At a time when the genre is turning more to a world of glossy videos, cheesy lyrics and the endless imitating of whatever everyone else is listening to, Cuba’s music is refreshingly honest and heartfelt. Like a younger Jorge Drexler, before Drexler started doing Radiohead covers, Cuba has mastered the art of wrapping jazz, rawer pop sounds and son influences around simple yet clever meanderings about love and life’s musings. Opening the album with two acoustic numbers, which are sparse with light horns and Cuba’s honeyed voice, the first impression is that it may play like a quiet bedroom album but as soon as the percussion comes in on the second verse of "Lamento” and Cuba takes over with smart licks on his vintage Gibson, which sound as simple as a tropical breeze, the album takes on an astute character all Cuba’s own. (Caracol)