Nil Lara

Longtime Miami music fans approaching an impending "certain age" might forever speak wistfully about the early-'90s South Beach scene around the Stephen Talkhouse and the local star it birthed: Nil Lara. Yes, it was a hallowed time, and Lara, the scene's perceived savior, almost broke it huge with his multiculti pop-rock, anchored by his nimble-fingered guitar and cuatro playing. As the decade waned, though, the usual major-label troubles ensued, and after months on the road, Lara returned to Miami to make it his home base for good.

But he's not mourning or obsessing about the past, and neither should his original crop of fans. The Talkhouse is, by Internet-age standards, ancient history, and Lara continues to make music that's worth a look from the under-30s. It's been six years since the release of his last solo album, Da, but his blend of Venezuelan, Cuban, and American musical traditions seems timeless. His ballads, especially, are perfectly wistful mood music and have been featured on TV shows such as Scrubs, Mad About You, and Cold Case. The party numbers, though, such as "Fighting for My Love," percolate with a bubbly world beat that Vampire Weekend fans should appreciate.

 
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