Yungchen Lhamo

Ama

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Yungchen Lhamo's third album finds the Tibetan songstress in firm control of her own destiny. She's a singer who works best in the abstract, unshackled by bass or rhythms, where her voice can soar freely, as it does on the glorious "Someday." It's curious that by comparison, "Fade Away," a fairly adventurous piece for most singers, comes across as relatively mundane and far too grounded in the everyday (even the lovely tones of Annie Lennox don't send it to the stratosphere, although it's one of her best performances in years). It's an album of surprises, like "9/11," which is elegiac and achingly sad, Lhamo's art at its most sublime. This is an album that's been a long time coming, but it's worth the wait, unhurried, a piece of art rather than commerce. The opener, "Ranzen," finds her offering messages of inspiration to her former countrymen, and the disc comes full circle by closing with an ode to "Lhasa," her birthplace, accompanied by airy National guitar. In some ways this is the ideal new age album, beautifully spiritual, often seeming to not be of this planet. But it's so perfectly free of clich├ęs and powered by imagination that it transcends genre. It simply is -- and in this case that statement is all you need. Yungchen Lhamo has made a wonderful album.

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