Elena Ledda's Amargura

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cd cover Elena Ledda
Marocco Music (www.maroccomusic.com)

Elena Ledda, trained at the Cagliari conservatory, has scoured Sardinia to assimilate its various folk styles and genres, gaining national stature as the music's foremost interpreter and proponent. Amargura, her eighth release, reveals Ledda at the apex of her melismatic powers, singing in Sardo and bringing the music of this ancient cultural crossroads brilliantly, poignantly alive. Her matchless voice is framed by a host of unusual and compelling work by some of Italy's foremost folk artists. Lino Cannavacciuolo plays a quiver of violins, kemange-a primeval spike fiddle tracing its roots to Persia, and keyboards, while doubling on chorus, also producing the recording, and co-arranging several pieces with Ledda. Paolo Fresu plays flicorno (flugelhorn) and tromba (the Nonnengeige or nun's violin, an elongated, medieval monochord with a loudly vibrating bridge that produces a trumpet-like sound when bowed and fingered at harmonic intervals), as heard on the title track, "Carinnius" and "Canticos."

Listen The latter is a driving, percussive tarantella-like survey of rural Sardinian vocal styles, achieving liftoff as Ledda interweaves her rapid scatting locutions with the soaring, resonant dual vibrato of Giovanni Coffarelli and Giovanni Mauriello, in a nod to North African vocal modes. "Tempos" also turns to the south with a throaty chorus and profoundly percussive groove, and Simoneta Soro's complementary vocals (Soro vividly embroiders several other songs as well). Mauro Palmas plays mandola, mandoloncello and benas-a Sardinian reed clarinet (as on "Pesa," with a decidedly Sephardic feel), while also backing on vocals. Neapolitan guitarist-composer Antonello Paliotti lends his orchestral sensibilities to several pieces, including "Carinnius," "Pesa," the unlikely, fascinating choice of "Knights in White Satin," and the plaintive "Tre Madri." The latter two pieces channel something of the Moody Blues, albeit filtered through a medieval Sardinian fuzz-tone phase shifter, with full string-and-operatic treatment; Cannavacciuolo's wailing violin and Ledda's delicate breaking vocals are nonpareil. - Michael Stone

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