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Orquesta Gitano
Salsa Picante
Little Gypsy Productions

The sounds of salsa and the rhythms of a good cumbia always serve as a siren song for lands south of the border. But Santa Cruz-based Orquesta Gitano is busy proving that some mighty spicy Afro-Caribbean fusions are smoldering right in our less-than-tropical midst. Orquesta's latest release, Salsa Gitana, follows the lead of the band's 1991 debut recording, Como Suena Mi Rumba. On both albums myriad musicians, lead by Bosco El Gitano, assault the senses with percussion, flute, violins, trombones, tumbadores--and a dozen instruments many North Americans can't even pronounce, much less master. One of the best pieces is a half-minute introduction, "Los Desparecidos," bleeding perfectly into a great salsa, "Vacilar." The band consists of musicians from Cuba, Puerto Rico, New York and California, but it retains a genuine feel for traditional salsa that's usually lost in world beat-fusion overmixing. Even the tribute to Carlos Santana is digestible to avid Santana-phobes. (Mary Spicuzza)

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Exploding Crustaceans
Get in the Tub
Conspiratorial Efforts

Sure they're crude, lewd and more than a little bit obscene, but, you see, the sheer chutzpah and musical humor these four guys revel in make their music and live shows well worth a listen. Exploding Crustaceans' new album, Get in the Tub, showcases that joyful vim and vigor in a raucous little package. Filled with upbeat, punky riffs, songs like "Porn Run/Crabs"--with its lines "I got a job in a liquor store/they don't pay me with cash/they pay with porn"--"Blue Balls" and their ode to the cheap bev, "Select Cola," rip and tear without coming off overly harsh. You may not want to bring these guys home to mom, but you'd sure be more than happy to have 'em play your party. (Karen Reardanz)

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Sharon Bousquet
Mirror, Mirror
Pasha Publishing (BMI)

With lots of slow, sultry guitar strumming and quietly acoustic bass lines, Santa Cruz musician Sharon Bousquet captures romantic longing and aching in 10 succinct songs. Yes, she's a young woman with Eros on the brain, but she takes the low road with her expression of it--she doesn't go Liz Phair's frisky "Love's done me wrong" route, nor does she do the sappy, Sarah McLachlan "Love is like ice cream" routine. Instead, Bousquet goes subtly into lovelorn poetics and earthy trysts, leaving songs like "I Don't Miss You" and "Want You Enough" strewn across the floor. While the music may be minimalist fare at best, it's Bousquet's finespun, visceral songwriting and throaty, limpid voice that make Mirror, Mirror worth a listen. (KR)

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Down By the Water
Larry Ray Tonkin

Now I've never been to New Orleans, and I always thought zydeco was an aesthetic movement related to art deco, but it turns out that any music lover can enjoy the simple tunes on the new album, Down by the Water, by local zydeco band Crawdaddy. Full of both original and traditional pieces, the album features songs that are guaranteed to chase away the Bourbon Street blues. Jigs like "Diggy Diggy Lo" and "Chere Marie" just scream out for dancing, and even slow numbers like "Mardi Gras Song" demand a little foot tapping and finger snapping. This music is upbeat, fun and easy listening, in the best sense of that term. The Soquel band employs instruments that are not usually considered melodic, like the rub board and accordion. But with this, Crawdaddy's second self-produced album, the band has Cajun-converted me. Can somebody pass the gumbo? (Sara Nichols)

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From the August 6-12, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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