Cuba libre

Marc Ribot and his Prosthetic Cubans are Habana good time

On "Talk To Me (Angels With Dirty Faces)," Ribot's guitar impersonates a metal mouse skittering away from a black bowling ball the size of the moon. For "6 Minutes" (notable for Tricky's rhyming of "pre-menstrual" with "vegetable"), Ribot's dirty "Loose Booty" riff provides the track with its funk axis. And while Ribot's acoustic is indistinguishable amidst the gospel choir and marching snare of "Broken Homes," the fact that the Tricky-Polly Jean Harvey duet is the most lucidly moving music either of these often-inscrutable artists has made thus far is at the very least intriguing. For his part, Ribot again demonstrates his awareness of how, as a sideman, he can serve a leader's needs best.

"Working on Tricky's album was great," Ribot says. "They had the rhythm tracks set up, and I went in and freestyled over them. It was a much more relaxed process than when you're building a pop song and you say, 'OK, where does the hook go?' It enabled me to play around, use feedback. There's this wide-open space right now between electronica and songwriters, and Tricky has found a great range of expression inside that space."

Such expressive expanses wind back to where Ribot, by evoking Arsenio Rodriguez with Los Cubanos Postizos, has learned to have fun in his musical ghetto, thereby creating his first thoroughly enjoyable headlining date, his first truly danceable record, and the record with which he finally abandons the ironic distance that marked his previous work to play with real--not prosthetic--soul.

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