World & Latin

Reaching Across Borders

09 JUL 07 JOHN C. BRUENING

Since the mid-'90s, The B-Side Players have been churning up a tasty rhythmic stew that borrows from a refreshingly diverse range of sources: Latino rock, reggae, funk, TexMex, Afro-pop and more. Masterminded by vocalist/frontman Karlos Paez, the band's ambitious 2001 debut album offered not only a mezmerizing patchwork of sounds and styles, but also a bold commentary on the roiling political and social climate at the dawn of the new millennium. The six-year wait for the follow up album, Fire in the Youth, was worth every minute.

Loaded with horns and fueled by tight rhythms, it digs deep into the rich veins of Cuban, Jamaican, Mexican and Brazilian music and grafts these traditional sounds to the rock, jazz and hip-hop of the octet's north-of-the-border origins. Producer Quetzal Flores, leader of the L.A.-band Quetzal, lays down all the guitar tracks in this 11-song set, adding an earthy groove in a few places -- sometimes with unusual playing styles, sometimes with exotic instrumentation, sometimes with both.

In addition to Flores, other noteworthy guest players include percussionist Edson Ginesi, cellist Timothy Lou, violinist Rocio Marron and the rag-tag, five-member Fire in the Youth Choir. Rollicking and thoughtful at the same time, Fire in the Youth is the B-Side Players' musical appeal for cross-cultural unity and heightened social consciousness in a fearful and fractured world.