Two friends to whom I recently lent Madredeus discs had the same reaction: with wide-eyed wonder, they handed back the disc and said, "This is so beautiful." Certainly the angelic singing of Teresa Salgueiro is the first thing people are struck by, but the group's balmy sound is a perfect accompaniment for her. Using two Spanish guitars, acoustic bass and a slight wash of synthesizer, Madredeus creates songs that have the delicacy of chamber music, but with a light rhythmic insistence like folk or pop.
The Lisbon-based group's sound is not as dark and dramatic as traditional Portuguese fado, but it is still tinged with bittersweet emotions. The bright, meticulous playing and Salgueiro's luminescent voice, however, make the music both soothing and gently uplifting. O Porto is a double-disc live version of their release O Paraiso. As pretty as this album is, newcomers might start with the group's single albums, which are just as beguiling. - Marty Lipp