The Other Shore (World Village 468110, 2011)
Being a native of the Czech Republic hasn’t stopped Marta Topferova from recording albums of authentic, highly enjoyable unplugged Latin music. Upon listening repeatedly to her 2009 release Trova, a celebration of the rural Cuban style of the same name, I’m more and more convinced of the classic status it deserves. In fact, Topferova’s Latin niche has been so skillfully carved out that her first collection of original songs in English might be regarded as a cause for concern. Would such a move be too abrupt a departure from what she’s thus far done so well?
Before spinning The Other Shore, I took note of the small print above the bar code on the back (just the sort of minutiae a dork like me tends to observe). “File Under: World/Latin,” it unequivocally stated. So be it. And upon listening, I found that there were Latin flavors to savor. Certainly more subtle than on Topferova’s previous output, but the fact that she still plays the South American four-stringer known as the cuatro on some of the songs shows that those old seasonings haven’t lost their zest. Still, there is previously untraveled road here.
After “End of Winter” and “Night Sky” are finished swaying to their respective Latin lilts (the former with gorgeous flute accompaniment), the disc moves smoothly between moods ranging from almost indie rock to blues to Greenwich Village folksiness to Joni Mitchell-like dreamscapes.
Singing in English, Topferova sounds less delicate and huskier than she has in the past. Such is accentuated by the lack of background vocals, and she carries the load with admirable agility in her delivery and phrasing. A tricky career step that could’ve easily gone awry, The Other Shore instead turns out to be a warm and winning disc that gracefully extends Marta Topferova’s global reach.