Ever wondered what might have happened had Lotte Lenya or someone very like her sang tango? Ponder no further because Oana Cătălina Chiţu provides that insight in Divine, which contains Threepenny atmospherics but often in the form's most decorous aspects, as in Până Când nu te Iubeam (Before I Fell in Love with You), a laconic track hazy with Balkan lace and lowering moody skies, a brilliantly written composition in which the band shines as it embroiders Chiţu's lachrymose lines. What Divine really is, is a tribute to singer Maria Tanase (1913 - 1963) and her repertoire of Romanian songs, but it isn't just Chiţu's vehicle. It's also a platform for an extraordinary backing band of dizzyingly accomplished world class musicians. In fact, they almost steal the show any number of times, leashed only by Chiţu's contrastingly compelling threnodics and perfectly inflected folk refrains (as in Luncă, luncă [Meadow Meadow]) with its—and I ain't kiddin' one little bit here—Chet Atkins / Mark Knopfler middle eight!).
Even the more upbeat cuts, such as Dacă nu te cunoşteam (If I hadn't Met You) and its exhilirations over the hopelessly ecstatic state of being in love, carry undertones of awareness of the potentiality of the beloved departing—just barely, almost not there, but detectable nonetheless, hence the tang of the bittersweet accompanying beatification. The entire disc is impeccable, and, when the band cuts loose, as in the instrumental Tănănica, it's astounding. If you have any interest whatsoever in World, jazz, or progressive musics, you have to hear this ensemble and singer. Her wont is more Western than Eastern but poised so well in the interface that each side of the divide has ample room for savoring every single note. Westerners, I suspect, will find more in the ballads, and when the Benny Goodman section wells up in Mi-am pus busuioc in păr (I've put Sweet Basil in my Hair), only to shift several times before returning to the main melodics, they'll both gasp and laugh. Easterners (those east of the Atlantic) will find a bit more in the exotic stylistics. And you? No matter where you start, by the time you finish listening to this CD, I'm betting you'll have switched sides several times, finally realizing that none of it matters, only that the music's resplendent and for nearly 70 glorious minutes to boot.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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