Lucid Culture


CD Review: Mariza – Terra

Terra, the fifth album by Portugal’s “Queen of Fado” coincides with a marathon 47-city US tour kicking off on Valentine’s Day in Chicago which should vault the chanteuse from cult status here [scroll down to the next paragraph if you’re familiar with fado music]. Fado, meaning “fate” is the national music of Portugal, dark, troubled ballads sung by women with an ache in their voices. Fado is characterized most overtly by “suadade,” a uniquely indigenous term whose translation falls somewhere between angst, longing and sentimentality, all qualities which show up here in droves. On this album, Mariza is backed by a tasteful acoustic backing unit including six- and twelve-string guitar, upright bass, piano and drums. There’s a little bolero feel here as well as a somewhat noir cabaret sensibility and a few songs that stray toward more modern pop territory, with the omnipresent twelve-string adding an otherworldly, eerily ringing edge.

As can be expected, laments comprise much of this cd, most notably Já Me Deixou (Now It’s Left Me) and Alma De Vento (Soul of the Wind), with their dark swaying relentlessness. The most striking number on the album is Beijo De Saudade (Sentimental Kiss), its catchy 12-string melody set against restrained muted trumpet, the vocals getting all smoky on the second verse. It’s based on a poem by a famous Cape Verde poet, written as he lay dying in his hospital bed in Portugal, badly missing his native land. There’s also more upbeat material including the bouncy Rosa Branca (White Rose), whose narrator finds she’s danced so much that the flower she’s been wearing has fallen to pieces: “If you love roses so much why don’t you love me?” she inquires exasperatedly. As can be expected, the strongest songs here are the more traditional numbers: when they edge toward a more overtly commercial, contemporary American sound, both singer and band sound a little out of their element. The cd ends on a particularly haunting note with Morada Aberta (My Door Is Open), where Mariza asks the river to rise up and wash away every physical and metaphorical trace of the past.

There’s also a “secret” track here, an English-language cover of the old pop standard Smile that doesn’t add anything. That one song aside, this music is nothing if not edgy. If the whole American noir crowd, i.e. your Nick Cave, Botanica and Dresden Dolls fans can be wooed, Mariza will have a massive crossover fan base on her hands. Here’s to casting the first stone. Mariza’s American tour kicks off on 2/14 at 8 PM at Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave. in Chicago.

February 3, 2009 - Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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