On her fifth U.S.-made album—her second since parting ways with Sony—Cuban chanteuse Albita delves deeper than ever.

On her fifth U.S.-made album—her second since parting ways with Sony—Cuban chanteuse Albita delves deeper than ever. As its title implies, Hecho a Mano (Handmade), is tailored to the artist's specific requirements and includes all original material, some dating back to 1984. The end result merges traditional Cuban son and trova—played entirely with acoustic instruments—and distinctly jazz elements. Known for her live performances, Albita strives to replicate that sound here, where she's backed by a superlative band that includes a hefty brass section. Hecho a Mano often sounds underproduced but the effect is deliberate and sometimes endearing, particularly on such tracks as "Aunque No Entiendan," where the piano has great improvisational leeway—albeit in a more melodic, rather than percussive, Latin jazz sense. In contrast, "Muriendo de Amor," backed only by guitars, percussion, and choruses, is far more intimate. As earthy as this album is, it's not understated, and Albita's deep, throaty voice—a formidable presence—is very much in your face. For Albita devotees, this is a good thing; for others, it's an acquired taste.—LC