This CD is all 31 flavors of “Fuck yeah!”
You’re finding this out in the very beginning of the review because not telling you immediately would’ve been a crime on par with simultaneously kidnapping the Lindbergh baby and assassinating Abe Lincoln while dressed in a Nazi uniform.
Ana Alcaide’s La Cantiga Del Fuego is a musical depiction of the lives and legends of the Sephardic Jews of Toledo. Alcaide’s voice floats and dances effortlessly and seamlessly atop each tune. The songs are brilliantly arranged — one false move and this material could’ve easily taken a wrong turn onto Pretentious Boulevard. And the use of exotic instruments — the oud, Turkish ney, psaltery, lyra, and Alcaide’s own nyckelharpa — is original, innovative and inspired.
Aficionados of world music will immediately recognize the nyckelharpa as that evil Scandinavian cross between a violin and a hurdy-gurdy, the appearance of which usually portends a very unpleasant listening experience. (Seriously, the nyckelharpa has been responsible for more verdicts of “Invade” than yodeling.) But you read that right: Ana Alcaide has single-handedly elevated the nyckelharpa from this column’s sinister, pasty Bond villain into its brooding, handsome hero.
One more thing: According to the liner notes, Alcaide also has a degree in botany and has conducted extensive studies of both the Baja California’s mushrooms and the birds’ nests of Scandinavia. What have you done lately?
How good is this CD? Well, imagine Pat Robertson, naked and covered in bear grease, being backed by Mumford & Sons in a four-hour rock opera about installing drywall. Well, La Cantiga Del Fuego is the exact opposite of that.