The originality and the weaknesses of Nicaragua's version of Nueva Cancion (New Song) were displayed Saturday at McCabe's. Singer Salvador Bustos struggled from the start to master the melodic intricacy of his music. More disappointing than his poor intonation were the shadows of Cuban singing-songwriting giant Silvio Rodriguez in his preciously abstract lyrics, which seemed to lack individual or even national identity.
By contrast, the duo of Guardabarranco's Katia and Salvador Cardenal Barquero demonstrated a unique style with crossover potential that seems to signal Nueva Cancion's evolution away from its folk roots to more popular forms.
Superficially, the gentleness of the brother and sister's songs resembled the folk-rock of James Taylor. But the maturity and tautness of their lyrics implied much more. To lovers, to their jungles, to Central America's victims and survivors of war, the Cardenals sang closely harmonized songs of remarkably elegant, elemental directness.