Cesária Évora passed away in 2011 at the age of 70, and thus the reign of the Barefoot Diva (she loved to perform sans shoes) and the Queen of Morna (a Cape Verdean form of blues) came to an end after an illustrious career that started accidentally when Jose da Silva happened to walk into a small bar in Mindelo, catching her singing for tips from customers. When you hear these tracks collected from studio sessions and otherwise unreleased from 1997 through 2003, when she was 58 to 63, you'll see why da Silva was captivated: Évora even then sounded like she's a fresh-faced and vibrant 25 or 30. Her selection of songs, though, readily demonstrates the worldliness and maturity of her outlook, ranging from tales of heartbreak (Talvez) to social revenge (Quem tem Odio) to hilarious dining inadvertencies (CCm&ecurc; Catchorr). Luckily, lyrics are reproduced in both Portuguese (at least, I think it's Portuguese!, being monolingual, I'm not terribly conversant in these things) and English, so both sides of the equator benefit.
Mãe Carinhosa's south of the border rhythms and instrumental inflections are unmistakeable, very folky, very ground-level, and quite infectious. It's not hard to see why she caught on so hugely and evoked more than a few tears when shuffling off the mortal coil. Da Silva thought this mode of tribute—collecting her unpublished songs—was far better than others' interpretations of Évora's oeuvre or any other mode, and it was a wise decision that her fans will be whispering a little prayer of thanks over.
Save for a few cuts more upbeat than the rest, the pervasiveness of lament is unmistakeable, classic, and enchantingly latinate. Emigue Inote is particularly snappy but ironically a frown of disapproval upon a wastrel who frittered his life away on rum, sweets, and dissipation, a wagging of the finger, a shaking of the head, and an instructional for anyone contemplating same. Marimba, timbales, various Latin percussives, and other native instruments play above background orchestrations along with some great piano work from Andres Gomez and others throughout the CD. Spanish guitar is a constant —trad, jazzy, and azure tinged—but the centerpiece is always Évora's voice, as open as her heart and, as was well known throughout Mindelo and elsewhere, the front door of her house, where she received well wishers and visitors up to the day she died, always a woman of the people.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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