THE Washington-based sextet Itzqueye calls itself a nueva cancion (new song) band, but many of the issues it addresses on its debut album "Songs of Struggle and Freedom," are, alas, anything but new. The band rails against the "death squads" in El Salvador on the opening track, and then goes on to champion the cause of political freedom, self-determination and solidarity around the world, fleshing out the songs with both traditional and contemporary instrumentation.
Depending on your political bent, some of the lyrics are likely to strike you as either boldly incisive or hopelessly misguided. Yet even some listeners who count themselves along the latter group are apt to recognize the craft and dedication that went into composing and choosing the material.
The tunes range from pieces based on Latin American poems to the chilling Bruce Cockburn-like narrative ballad "Where Did Julio Go Last Night?" and include both Israeli and Palestinian songs. While some of the synthesizer and reggae arrangements are strictly routine, the lead vocals, harmonies and acoustic instrumentation are often affecting.
Guitarist Juan Avila takes a similar view of the world on his new album "Rivers Have No Boundaries," though more often he comes across as a likable romantic in the '60s singer-songwriter mold. His acoustic guitar and the weaving fiddle of Robert Spates create spare but surprisingly colorful settings for these tuneful musings and plaints.