Zera Vaughan

Back to the Roots

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Zera Vaughan is a relatively new songstress out of L.A., by way of Paris and Tunisia. On Back to the Roots, a deceptively titled debut album, she presents an accomplished set of pop built on world music foundations and trip-hop elements (with possibly a tiny dash of jazz for good measure). The French band W.S.L. provides a high quality background for her vocals, incorporating everything from electric keyboards to shawms into an ambient mix thick with exoticism. The focus of the album, though, is Vaughan's vocals, pulled out almost too sensually for each song in a mix of English and French, trying to catch some of the aesthetics of the great Arabic singers (such as Umm Kulthum, it would seem) and a bit of North African intonation. At the same time, she plays with a little bit of London's casual approach to female vocals with understated performances at the forefront from time to time. The compositions can get a bit simplistic from, but that's a hazard of any pop music, ethnically infused or not. Overall, it's a nice album. Performances all around are good. There isn't anything here that you haven't heard before on the modern world music market, but it's still enjoyable.

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