Jorge Drexler ‘Bailar en la Cueva’ (Warner Spain) 4/5

Jorge-DrexlerUruguayan singer-songwriter upped both city and country and moved to Madrid in 1995 after being invited by the famous Spanish singer Joaquin Sabina to do so. Five albums resulted between 1996 and 2010, including the last, ‘Amar la Trama’, from 2010 which was reviewed in this column at the time and was an excellent introduction to the singer’s craft. In addition Drexler wrote and sung the music to Walter Salles’ biopic on Che Guevara, ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’, and indeed he won an Oscar for the song ‘Al otro lado del Rio’.

For his latest album, Drexler, who for a long time combined singer-songwriting with being a doctor (both his parents are doctors), has come up with a pan-South American sound that takes on board diverse influences and is reflected also in the variety of guest musicians invited for the journey and these range from Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux to Brazilian legend Caetano Veloso and Colombia group Bomba Estereo. Unusual instrumentation and subject matter combined with irresistibly catchy rhythms is Jorge Drexler’s trademark and he excels on the Uruguayan roots number ‘La Luna de Rasqui’ which is a subtle dislocation from the norm and all the better for it. This is precisely the kind of music that David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label would wholeheartedly embrace and indeed one might find parallels between Drexler and say Tom Zé in terms of an idiosyncratic and individualistic approach. The old-school typewriter font of the inner sleeve lyrics and details is testimony to Jorge Drexler’s desire to stay with what he personally feels comfortable with. Tijoux collaborates with the leader to good effect on the bright and breezy ‘Universos Paralelos’ which has something of Latin big band feel to it and lovely 1970s style keyboards. Afro-jazz beats in the use of horns and heavy percussion are a feature of ‘Data Data’ which was co-written by father and son duo Ben and Lee Sidran. A fine collaboration is a duet with Caetano Veloso on ‘Bolivia’, a song devoted to his father. If there is a Latin American singer-songwriter worth checking out, then alongside Caetano Veloso and Ruben Blades, Jorge Drexler is most certainly your man. Drexler is currently three-quarters of the way through a Spanish and Latin American tour with the final concerts taking place in Spain during June/July. The wonderfully quirky graphic illustrations on the inner cover are by Mateo Rivano while the striking main cover is by Rojo Pistacho, a name one is not likely to forget in a hurry.

Tim Stenhouse