Mariana Montalvo

Cantos del Alma

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Chilean chanteuse Montalvo draws on the traditional music of her native country for the backdrop of her work, yet her years as an expatriate living in Paris have imbued her sound with a worldly, sophisticated air. Charango and panpipes mix effortlessly with African drums and Spanish guitar. The melodies are simple and folky, yet the arrangements are lush and often innovative. Her light, accessible voice floats easily over the churning rhythms and meticulously chosen tone colors. The lyrics are especially intriguing, coming from her own pen and those of poets such as Gabriella Mistral of Chile, Alphonsina Storni of Argentina, and Joana de Ibarburu of Uruguay. She sets their compelling words like jewels into her own flowing melodies. "Si Te Miro" (If I Look at You) is a song of obsessive love accompanied by just percussion and a rhythmic choral backup. The desperation of the singer comes through subtly yet intensely. By contrast, the tender "Hermana" (Sister), with its acoustic guitar and soulful violin accompaniment, beautifully conveys the deep love of close siblings. One can detect a touch of Edith Piaf's influence on this one and on the wistful "India Song." Cantos Del Alma is a rich, multi-hued debut.

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