Harmonia Mundi

label website

Though merely 32 years of age now, Miguel Poveda already sang like an old man upon his infamous debut at the Festival de las Minas in La Union. There the unknown 20-year old Flamenco cantaor walked away with four prizes including the most coveted one, the Miner's Lamp. He followed this stunt as an actor in Bigas Luna's movie La Teta i la Lluna and rapidly ascended through the ranks of contemporary luminaries of the male Flamenco song scene. His first release Suena Flamenco already was nominated for a Grammy Latino 2000.

On Zaguán ["hallway"], he once again teams up with his favored guitarist Juan Gomez "Chicuelo" -- who's likewise fancied by Flamenco's grand dame Carmen Linares -- while patriarch Juan Habichuela does the guitar honors on the solea "En Silencio". With Flamenco in constant flux, there's proponents of keeping it pure and sticking to traditional roots while others explode the genre at the seams. Good examples for the latter are Pepe Habichuela's Yerbagüena (where he collaborates with The Bollywood Strings from India), El Cigala's mindboggling Cuban fusion Lagrimas Negras or the various Jazzpaña installments.

Miguel Poveda's Flamenco is modern but pure, intent on keeping the flame ablaze on traditional stock (though Poemas del Exilio had him shed that persona and adapt his vocal style to the Argentine Tango-flavored programme material very successfully and unexpectedly). But when authorizing an album under Flamenco's umbrella, Poveda doesn't indulge experiments and is thus a favorite with those who look upon certain flamboyant modernizing trends with ill-disguised suspicion. The unique power demands of Flamenco tend to prematurely wear out voices - a popular example is the Gypsy King's lead singer Nicolas Reyes. They lose elasticity and incisiveness and instead are buffered by hoarseness and restricted, somewhat muffled range.

Perhaps because of his young age, Miguel's voice suffers no cut potency and is thus as clear and powerful as a mountain waterfall, recalling the purity of El Potito's remarkable debut Andandos por los Caminos. He also manages to put 110% into each song and imbue it with an intense charge that pounces on the listener like a stealthy leopard. Not as ferocious as El Pele on his groundbreaking Canto collaboration with Vicente Amigo, Miguel Poveda weds intensity to elegance, not despair or the flashy metal of Duquende. He thus makes a perfect entry point for those unfamiliar with the genre. His singing is more polished than that of others working this metier, yet he's firmly planted in the traditions. The nine tracks here cover the popular styles of the Gipsy tangos, fandangos, bulerias, solea and taranto as well as the lesser-heard liviana, cantiñas and pregón.

Give Zaguán a spin and enter the world of the Spanish Blues. It can be equally gruff and despondent as Delta Blues but due to its uptempo complex rhythms, is far more often a wailing celebration of vim and vigor. Now add an elevated form of concertizing to the mix and you arrive at Zaguán, the hallway leading into the blinding light of day.