Afro-Peruvian singer Susana Baca is part of a nueva generacion of non-Western female vocalists, including Cape Verde's queen of the morna Cesaria Evora and the operatic Virginia Rodrigues of Brazil, that are extending traditional folk songs about love and history into a highly sophisticated, trans-global aural art form. By building upon personal experience, musical sensibility, and an ear for modern aesthetics, Baca and her fellow divas convincingly evoke the lyrical depth of the blues flanked by south-of-the-equator grooves. On Eco de Sombras, Baca's voice is restrained, cool, and straightforward without excessive vibrato. Her smooth voice wavers, sighs, and slides around the Peruvian melodies and rhythms supplied by her own quartet along with additional Western elements contributed by John Medeski (organ), guitarist Marc Ribot and David Byrne.
Craig Street, a producer known for his spare, acoustically sensitive style, intelligently surrounds Baca's voice with light flourishes of percussion, bass and his usual bag of rhythmic tricks (cow bells, rain sticks, slide guitars). On songs like "Xanajari" and "Panalivio/Zancudito," the sound is supple and playful, yet like Ry Cooder's cosmic slide guitar treatments for the Buena Vista Social Club, feature unusual, but non-invasive instrumentation to create intrigue and mystery. Eco de Sombras is an intelligent, cross-cultural masterwork that cracks open a world of international possibility. - Todd Dominey
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