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Saturday, April 08, 2017

The Navigator

I raved about Hurray for the Riff Raff's previous album, Small Town Heroes, and am equally impressed with their new one, The Navigator. The brainchild of front woman Alynda Segarra, it's a song cycle about life in the Puerto Rican section of the Bronx.

The album's liner notes are in the format of a Playbill, as if The Navigator were a stage musical. There is an introduction, "Entrance" with an a capella group singing the main theme: "One for the navigator, oh my Lord. Two for the navigator, get on board."

Segarra "stars" as Navita Milagros Negron, a "daughter of the city." The songs reflect on growing up in a Nuyarican culture. Unlike the folk stylings and New Orleans influence of Small Town Heroes, these songs are more rock, tinged with Latin and African rhythms. Songs like "Living in the City" and "Hungry Ghost" are fairly straight-forward rock numbers, while the "11 o'clock number," "Pa'lante," is a rousing epic (I had to Google the word--it's a Puerto Rican abbreviation for the words "go forward").

Of course, if it weren't for the record packaging I might have never picked up that this is a concept album--there is no lyric sheet--and while Segarra's voice enunciates very clearly, it wouldn't have occurred to me to pick up on the nuances. Now all she needs is a book and she can put it on stage, where I would love to see it.

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