Pura Trova—The Best of Vieja Trova Santiaguera & Live and Rare Tracks

In the seemingly endless onslaught of traditional Cuban music, it's become difficult to sort through the rhinestones to find the gems.

In the seemingly endless onslaught of traditional Cuban music, it's become difficult to sort through the rhinestones to find the gems. But Pura Trova—a two-disc compilation (with an extraordinarily informative accompanying booklet) from the mostly octogenarian gents of Cuba's Vieja Trova Santiaguera—is a rare diamond whose earthy, elegant feel brings back the original enthusiasm generated by the traditional son and trova revived by this very group (even before Buena Vista Social Club). Finesse and spirit are paramount on the first disc, which is culled from three Vieja Trova albums from the mid-'90s (the group formed in 1994). The lush vocal harmonies of standards like "Son de la Loma" benefit from a slightly slower tempo than usual, while "El Peluquero" and "Un Meneito Na' Más" bristle with mischief. Rather than aiming for technical virtuosity, the five members of Vieja Trova have opted for seamless integration; more than a conversion mission, theirs is a reunion of friends. Disc two—featuring live, rare, and previously unreleased tracks—is interesting but lacks the immediate appeal of the first set. In the end, though, that shouldn't stop anyone from experiencing this dazzler.—LC