Cathy Claret

La Chica del Viento

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Cathy Claret is kind of hard to explain. Though her music is most often classified as flamenco, she is careful to distance herself from that label, while expressing admiration for traditional flamenco masters like Pata Negra. Claret claims that though she herself is not of Romany blood, she was raised by an extended Gypsy family near her hometown of Nimes, France after the death of her mother and the institutionalization of her father, and her music, especially her fluid acoustic guitar playing, is very much within the Gypsy tradition. But that tradition is mixed with elements of flamenco, jazz, and pop on La Chica del Viento (The Windy Girl), creating a boundary-crossing, polyglot sound somewhere between the genre-busting of Manu Chao and the pop exotica of '60s sirens like Astrud Gilberto and Claudine Longet. Claret's voice is nearly as thin and helium-pitched as those two forebears, but she's a canny songwriter who turns her vocal limitations into strengths on songs as sunny and delightful as "Eloge de la Paresse" and the self-explanatory "Come Una Bossa Nova." There are times when things get slightly too sugary for their own good, especially on "Sentimientos," which is mortally wounded by a terrible, melodramatic harmony vocal that clashes terribly with both the ABBA-like sweetness of the tune and arrangement and Claret's own cool, understated lead vocal. But even that is remedied immediately by the sultry "No Me Importa," which features Claret's most overtly sexy vocal and a slinky Hammond organ line and R&B horn section that bring up echoes of Dusty in Memphis.

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