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Eliseo Parra
Viva Quien Sabe Querer
Boa, Spain (www.boa-music.com)

cd cover Viva Quien Sabe Querer (Long Live He Who Knows How to Love), the latest recording by Spain's Eliseo Parra, is a sterling example of both successful contemporary presentation of traditional themes and the masterful use of diverse recording techniques. Three of the songs were recorded live in the coffee bar of a Madrid hotel, three in the studio with minimal production, and the remaining five "in the habitual way, that is to say, track by track or instrument by instrument." Percussion combo Tactequete makes the three piano bar tracks thunderous, but other songs also revel in Parra's providential infatuation with a driving beat. His vocal is irresistibly spirited and good-natured, slightly nasal and slurred with a crisp tenor edge. The excellent instrumental backing is almost an Iberian compendium, with only bagpipes notable by their absence.

Listen!
"El Brillante"
"Fúlgida Luna," one of the piano bar tracks, starts with lively percussion and a flute sort of clearing its throat, then resolves into a tight, exultant shuffle featuring harmonium, mandola, and flute. Parra's infectiously joyous vocal soars both in solo and comfortably sandwiched between the harmonies of Josete Ordóñez and Xavi Lozano. From its quiet beginning, "El Reloj de Valdetorres" layers new instrumental lines on a simple verse for each of the twelve hours of the Valdetorres clock, a fitting employment of the "habitual" way of recording. Parra's vocal here is a riveting conflation of the ragged and the smooth, unaccompanied until the ultimate verse.

"Ruiloba" kicks off as a dignified processional, the syncopated percussion driving over a hurdy-gurdy drone, a low flute winding playfully around Parra's simple vocal. An extended jazzy instrumental break emerges with magical smoothness to reinterpret the melodic line on harmonium, fading off in gentle vocal chorus and flamenco guitar. "La Cigüeña" begins with the beak-clacking of storks and what sounds like a didgeridoo, transitioning into insistent, driving hand percussion and Parra's moaning, impassioned vocal. It is utterly simple, utterly engaging.

"El Brillante," another piano bar track, is the best on the album, and one of the most compelling pieces of music I've heard in years. It is suffused with a nearly ponderous rhythm, three-quarter time with booming emphasis on the first two beats, a rhythm that changes little but adopts quite distinct charges depending on how vocals and instruments play off it. Parra's vocal is passionate on the verses relating this tale of brotherly cuckolding, waxing transcendent when joined by dense harmonies on the skipping chorus, listing snatches of memories, of clothes, from the encounter, a soundtrack in no need of a movie.

Viva Quien Sabe Querer grips the listener on first exposure. You'll not want to be released. - Jim Foley

Available from cdRoots


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