A report by Judy Cantor-Navas for Billboard.
The salsa star joins the many Puerto Rican artists who have long claimed a special place in the hallowed halls of popular holiday music.
Puerto Rican artists have long claimed a special place in the hallowed halls of popular holiday music. José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” remains the best-known Christmas song with Spanish lyrics (and one of the world’s perennial favorites, period). Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe’s classic 1971 album Asalto Navideño, featuring the great cuatro player Yomo Toro, forever brought that era’s gritty urban Latin sound to the holiday table, delivering a danceable feast that includes grooved-up Puerto Rican Christmas songs and the album’s evergreen hit, “La Murga,” Colon’s homage to Panamanian Carnaval music. For the sake of your soul, do not let any holiday season pass without listening to that recording. And what would a tropical Christmas be without El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico’s songs about fiestas, food and family?
Tito Nieves is adding to the holiday Latin flavor, as the veteran salsa singer just released his first holiday album, Navidad a Mi Estilo, (Christmas My Style). His style here is mostly salsa: the party-ready, old-school kind. There’s one English track, a sultry “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” duet with (Cuban-American) American Idol veteran Charity Daw. The album also includes an ode to Puerto Rico, “Quiero Cantarle a Mi Tierra,” whose “soy Boricua” chorus is made for shouting along to.
Typical of Puerto Rican Christmas music, the Caribbean island born, New-York raised artist’s album includes songs referencing the holiday feast: “El Lechon de Julio” (“Julio’s Roast Pig”) is a catchy salsa track about a pig so beloved he’s saved from the Christmas Eve table, and “El Culito de Pan” (“The Bread Butt”) is a rousing declaration of love to the crusty end of a baguette that, in Nieves’ view, makes for the best leftover pork sandwich.
Nieves is set to perform his holiday songs on Dec. 14 at Club Skye in Ybor City, Tampa. Listen to “El Culito Del Pan” from the album below.