Javier Ruibal
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Javier Ruibal
Las Damas Primero
18 Chulos Records (www.18chulos.com)

cd cover Javier Ruibal is surely one of Cadiz' greatest hidden treasures. A singer and guitarist of immense talent and diversity, a man of warmth and charm with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, Ruibal's sound is one which gorges itself on cultures and traditions, sampling and tasting and spinning a web that is entirely contemporary and idiosyncratic. A listen through Las Damas Primero leaves the senses reeling, longing for days spent on the steamy streets of North Africa or southern Spain.

"Por La Puerta De Elvira" is a song of great proportions, grand in its scope and influences. The verses tease, with instrumentation safely mirroring the vocals on both guitar and violins, before suddenly entering a landscape of harsh strings and breathy vocals in the chorus. The sense of pleading inherent in the vocals of "El Naufrago Del Sahara" tugs at the heart strings and creates a feeling of both hope and sorrow. Lush orchestration adds to the romance of the song. "Guardame" is a stunning ballad, with a soaring chorus.

In contrast, "Vino Y Besos" is an undisguised dance song, extravagant Latin-soaked brass and rhythms calling to the hips of even the most cautious dancer. Compared to songs like this, tracks such as "Erase Alli Tan Cerca" sound inhibited and excessively smooth, lacking in spirit too notably to fit into the Ruibal repertoire. He does best on tracks which allow him to perform with total freedom, the voice rising to its full potential, complete with innate Arabic inflections. It is inappropriate to box in a singer like Ruibal; it undermines the passion and raw appeal that is his style, a style obviously based on the intensity of flamenco, but with gentleness that is all Ruibal. - Jennifer Byrne

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