Quiet Graceful Voice

Susana Baca – Travesías
Susana Baca

Travesías (Luaka Bop, 2006)

The hauntingly precious vocals of Peru’s Susana Baca are always a treat, but her latest release Travesías is especially powerful in the quiet way her graceful voice captures the listener from her very first note. With Baca’s vocals as the emotional component, the musical landscape shifts from the gentle serenade to a funky bluesy number to a traditional song from her native Peru.

Singing in Spanish, Portuguese, English, Haitian Creole and French, Baca, along with her longtime musical colleagues of Marc Ribot, Sergio Valdeos and Juan Medrano Cotito, treat the listener to a global journey that is both savvy and sweet.

Teaming with Gilberto Gil on “Estrela,” this song, one of Gil’s compositions, is set ablaze by Kevin Breit on guitar and Sergio Valdeos on acoustic guitar. “Guillermina” warms the listener with a rousing chorus and some powerful guitar playing by Marc Ribot.

The CD moves into a more reflective piece entitled “Una Copla Me Ha Cantado” that really showcases Baca’s emotional pull on the listener against Kevin Breit’s and Sergio Valdeos guitar work. Travesías is a triumph of Baca’s vocal interpretations against the spectacular spare musical compositions, not simplistic, but starkly spaced so that they enhance her charmed performance.

Haitian track “Merci Bon Dieu” evolves from a tight, neat tune into a sumptuously rich composition with the expert guitar work of Ribot, Breit, Valdeos and Juan Medrano Coito on cajón and yembé. The blues inspired “Né Quelque Part,” written by Maxime le Forestier, possesses enough funk to make the air go thick and smoky. Other treats are “Pensamiento,” “Siempre” and the eerily lovely “Palomita Ingrata.”

Ahh, the gloriousness of Susana Baca – what else is there to say?

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Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.