Subway Son

The self-taught feel-good grooves of Mo'Guajiro

Tracks like "Caballo," where the singer laments, "They've taken away my horse" and "life as a Cuban cowboy is hard," speak of a world the musicians know only in their imaginations. Other tracks refer to worlds the group must know all too well. "Percusión" begs the rhythmless to please leave the music to those who can actually play, a plea often heard in the kind of open-to-everybody drumming sessions Mo'Guajiro grew out of. Taking its own advice, however, Mo'Guajiro gets a little help from famous friends. Nelson Gonzalez shows up with a tres solo and Chocolate Armenteros plays several heartbreaking trumpet runs on both "Caballo" and on the stirring bolero "Siempre me Acuerdo de Ti."

The group experiments on other tracks, wedding the son to African-American gospel and rhythm and blues on the English language "Practice Love," and unleashing some vintage boogaloo on "Gato Negro," the sly tale of a Brooklyn roustabout. Inspired by bass player Ihan Betancourt, the song "Cumambo" fuses the son with cumbia in what may be the first mambo electrified by an accordion. All in all Pueblo Alegre is a pleasant first effort that promises, more than anything else, that catching the band live will make for a really good time.

It's a promise that has caught the attention of promoters, who have booked the band to open for Cuban island heavyweights such as Los Van Van and, in January, the Buena Vista Social Club itself. Aware of the trouble keeping such company might mean in Miami, Venezuelan timbalero Tony DeVivo says simply: "People don't relate us with anything political. We just love the music." Halva seconds that sentiment as he explains the origins of the band's name, "The Mo' kinda comes from whatever you want: the funk and soul of Motown, the Puerto Rican stew mofongo. Most of all, though, we just liked the way the words felt in the mouth."

Mo'Guajiro performs at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 4 at Starfish, 1427 West Ave, Miami Beach. Tickets cost $10. For more information call 305-673-1717.

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