Discmedi DM 4125-02

Having launched his career by winning the most important Spanish prize for Flamenco singers, Miguel Poveda has since become known also for very sophisticated work outside the traditional Flamenco milieu. Desglaç | Thaw is one such effort, teaming the singer once again with guitarist/arranger Juan 'Chicuelo' Goméz who spearheaded the Flamenco-Quawwali sessions with Faiz Ali Faiz's party and Poveda and Duquende.

Desglaç sets to music twelve poems by Catalan writers whose stanzas are hence delivered in Catalan rather than Spanish. Set to piano, piano + bass, Brazilian-flavored samba, tangoesque settings with bandoneon, even string quartet, Desglaç once again pushes Flamenco Puro boundaries by being only marginally related. Alas, superior singing is superior singing. Just as Cigala demonstrated so powerfully with Cuban piano ace Bebo on the bolero break-out album Lagrimas Negras, Thaw is top-drawer stuff, clearly Latin but otherwise rather boundary defying.

A lot of it simmers, the hoarse top-of-the-lungs intensity of the bulerias sublimated for gentler cancion with an edge. Even echoes of Fado flavorings show up, a really far-reaching mix of vignettes that make for quite the sampler of styles, all threaded together by the effortless vocalizing of the Spaniard. From incendiary Mercedes Sosa-style protest songs to Jazzy bossa nova, it's all highly intelligent, passionate, deliberate, honed and crafted as you'd expect from this artist who already gave us the Poemas del exilio by Rafael Alberti. And the arrangements are particularly clever, as the santoor for example on the violent "Boca Seta" that prevents a clear fix on where we are, geographically, just before Miquel Gil's gruff vocal interlude; or the harmonica intro of the swingin' "Plany de Maragdes".

If a lot of popular music has you wishing for a higher lyrical standard; more vocal chops; more applied smarts and sophistication - give Desglaç a spin. It might well thaw your ambivalence and prove that despite living in the dark ages in may respects, artistic integrity continues to be a traded currency.