Ry Cooder and his Buena Vista Social Club pals painted themselves into one exquisite corner with the multi-platinum success of their Cuban all-stars. After resuscitating the careers of senior-citizen singers such as Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo, and Omara Portuondo with nostalgic, sepia-toned albums that reprised Havana's greatest hits, how to keep them fresh? With this risky, rewarding set, Ferrer's follow-up to his 1999 1.5 million seller, the Club shows off muscle that's as surprising as Ferrer's preternaturally preserved croon. The velvet-voiced singer was ready for it, having since recorded with Senegal's Orchestra Baobab and Damon Albarn's Gorillaz, but what fun it is to hear his Nat Cole warble over the low-rider honk of the title track, or lighting a fire under "Oye Consejo," the rock 'n' roll rumba that closes the disc. Anchored by the same gang that recorded Cooder's excellent Mambo Sinuendo -- Manuel Galbán on guitar and organ, Orlando "Cachaíto" López on bass, conguero Miguel Angá Díaz, the traps duo of Jim Keltner and Joachim Cooder, and plenty of ringing guitar by Ry himself -- Buenos Hermanos aims at making Cuban music history rather than just recapturing it. Guitar licks duke it out with piano solos by maestro Chucho Valdés; eccentric percussion clatters and crashes; organs growl; accordions honk; and Afro-Cuban vamps gather a loose-limbed, jam-band intensity. Cooder gives Ferrer a chance to show off his lisping pipes on a bolero or two, but with a difference -- "Naufragio" (Shipwrecked) has a boozy sentimentality that Tom Waits would envy. "Perfume de Gardenia," featuring the Blind Boys of Alabama and some breathy baritone sax, has a New Orleans R&B feel. Indeed, in contrast to the dusty BVSC groove, the atmosphere here is steamy, especially when Ferrer and friends fire up son montuno, as on "Hay Que Entrarle a Palo a Ese," which borrows its organ vamp from Eddie Palmieri's classic Sing-Sing rendition of "Vamonos Pal Monte." From the start to finish, this engaging set proves that the old Social Club is still a plenty lively place.