Ramana Vieira

Lágrimas de Rainha [Tears of a Queen]

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When American musicians see song titles in Portuguese, the first thing that comes to mind is Brazilian music. That's certainly understandable; Brazil is the largest country in South America, and a lot of great pop and jazz has come from Brazil. But there is a whole other world of rich Portuguese-language singing: fado, which comes from Portugal itself. And in the United States, one singer who has been a strong proponent of fado is Ramana Vieira (who grew up in Northern California but has Portuguese parents). A prominent influence on Lágrimas de Rainha (Tears of a Queen) is the late Amália Rodrigues (who, arguably, was to fado what Edith Piaf was to French chanson and Celia Cruz was to salsa), and there are also hints of Dulce Pontes (who was born almost 40 years after Rodrigues) in Vieira's soulful, torchy performances. But instead of going out of her way to emulate her influences, Vieira demonstrates that she is her own person -- and she does that in Portuguese most of the time, although she performs mostly or entirely in English on "Amália" (a tribute to Rodrigues), "United in Love," and "My Country Portugal." This 50-minute CD has its share of traditional, time-honored fado gems (including "Maria Lisboa," "Fado Marujo," and "Coimbra"), but Vieira is far from a fado purist. A fado purist would not do any singing in English, and a fado purist would not incorporate jazz and American adult contemporary the way that Vieira does at times. But the fact that Vieira does all of those things is a plus; she is well aware of fado's rich history, although the expressive singer obviously isn't afraid to carve out an appealing identity of her own. And that willingness to take chances serves Vieira well on the promising Lágrimas de Rainha.

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