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World Music CD Reviews North American

JUAN CARRANZA

By Tom Pryor

Mareas
Oliver Sudden Productions

While Canada and Costa Rica may not exactly be the first places that spring to mind when talking about flamenco music, Costa Rican-born, Montreal-based Juan Carranza is an impressive flamenco nonetheless. On Mareas, the singer-guitarist's third album for the Canadian indie label Oliver Sudden, Carranza leads his five-piece ensemble through a spirited suite of traditional - and nuevo flamenco -inspired originals. Don't let the nuevo flamenco tag throw you; Carranza's style is closer to the original Iberian model than fellow North American practitioners such as Ottmar Liebert and Willie and Lobo. Tracks such as "Sirena," "Cosita Buena" and the title track all resonate with the kind of subtle North Africa percussion that's been percolating in Spain for years now. Carranza himself is an impressive guitarist, technically accomplished and deeply soulful. The only drawback is his thin voice, which has the requisite grit but not the depth or range of a truly great flamenco.