ATTACHED to Yomo Toro's new album "Gracias" is a sticker that reads: "Latin Dance Music." Fair warning, it would seem, for anyone hoping to find the Puerto Rican-born, New York-based cuatro player performing the kind of traditionally oriented folk music that appeared on his last album, the breakthrough "Funky Jibaro."
But fans of Toro's 10-string cuatro, which looks like a small guitar and sounds somewhat like a low-strung mandolin, shouldn't abandon hope. Rather than a concession to pop tastes, "Gracias" is a spirited celebration of it, embracing elements of hip-hop, salsa, flamenco and funk. Pop producer Rae Serrano is responsible for most of the changes. He recruited a Latin hip-hop group to sing on two of the album's most accessible dance club tracks, "Se Acabo" and "Stop Playing With My Heart," and even talked Toro into making his vocal debut on the boisterous, off-the-cuff novelty, "Don't Bury My Clothes."
Of course, it's as an instrumentalist that Toro really shines, playing both cuatro and guitars. Despite the album's pop thrust and sheen, he gets several opportunities to display his solo and rhythmic virtuosity, particularly on the percussive Spanish delights "Amor, Amor, Amor" and "Atrevete."