Rhythm & Views

José Saavedra Iguina

Even if you don't understand Spanish, José Saavedra Iguina's rich baritone and muscular though gentle guitar playing communicate a beauty unmatched (and usually well respected) by most Tucson-based musicians. And for non-Spanish-speakers, Saavedra includes, in the liner notes of his third self-released album, English translations of all the lyrics.

The Puerto Rico-born Saavedra, whose friends call him Pepo, is a treasure, performing his original compositions in the delicate, refreshing style nuevo canción known throughout much of Latin America, fusing it with elements of British and American folk and his own imagistic songwriting. The result is a collection of songs that verge on being fired in the forge of, if not magical realism, a kind of humanistic mysticism.

For example, the title track, which means "To See Every Sight," is also a play on the word "cadaver." Saavedra employs engaging verbal gymnastics to weave a musical memorial to those who have suffered and died under American-backed foreign regimes and those lives and families destroyed by U.S.-Mexico border policy.

It's a dark and lovely tribute and, like several of the songs here, features poignant string accompaniment by violinists Elise DuBord (Saavedra's wife) and Rebecca Bleich. Elsewhere, cellist Joey Burns (from Calexico) gives several of the songs a melancholy charm that recalls, as many writers have noted, the work of the tragic early '70s British folkie Nick Drake.

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