Imagine a bilingual Marty Robbins landing in Havana to record with the hottest Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican and New York salsa musicians around. Seasoned with the dobro and pedal steel artistry of Texan Lloyd Maines, the result might sound like Cowboy Rumba.
West Texas native Ned Sublette is a noted Cuban and Afro-pop record and radio producer, and a long-time C&W presence on Manhattan's downtown dance circuit. With that mongrel pedigree, why not unleash "Ghost Riders in the Sky" as a bright, tight merengue? Why not pry open the latent guaguancó clave of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" with the keen Afro-Cuban percussion and call-and-response vocals of famed rumba troupe Los Muñequitos de Matanzas?
Beyond these idiosyncratic reworkings, Sublette offers eight of his own crossbred tunes, with notable guest spots by NG La Banda and Yomo Toro. Spiking Afro-Latin forms with an insouciant Texas twang, Sublette takes the drinking-and-cheating country tradition on a freewheeling Caribbean cruise. Purists may cringe, but now and then we catch the fleeting strain of a truly Pan-American cultural sensibility, whose artistic borrowing and synthesis are the sincerest expression of cross-cultural respect, affirmation and celebration. - Michael Stone