Music Reviews

Dulce Pontes

O Premiero Canto


Dulce Pontes’ heartbreaking voice drives and defines her fifth release, O Premiero Canto. The shadow of the great Amalia Rodrigues obscures much of contemporary fado, but Pontes is coming into her own as she expands the repertoire and adds new element to a beautiful, but inert, tradition.

The power and beauty of her voice are undeniable. She’s savvy enough to work with such phenomenal Portuguese instrumentalists as Leonardo Amueda on guitar and Filipe Luces on Portuguese guitar. She also pulls out the stops with the likes of jazz great Wayne Shorter, Basque triki-savant, Kepa Junkera, Madagascar’s Justin Vaili on valiha, among a host of other Portuguese and worldwide musicians.

Her best work is in redefining fado with self-penned near-classic reinterpertations of “Fado-Mae” and “Porte de Magoas.” Pontes’ thick-voiced weariness and near-wailing glissandos can make skin crawl. The form and style of these songs, though contemporary, would fit into any fadista’s repertoire without a backward glance.

Pontes’ digging into other Portueguese traditions has also come up with gold in “Ai Solidom,” “Tirioni,” and “E tao grande aletejo.” Where she falters is with a tendency toward over-production and several songs that exhibit a new-agey one-world-beat flaccidness. There seem to be a few too many tunes on O Premiero Canto that pander to some undefined MOR expectations.

However, this can all be forgiven with Waldemar Bastos’ “Belha Chica.” Pontes and Bastos duet on this heart-wrenching morna – reaching toward some unknowable depths with Bastos’ dessicated tenor and Pontes’ perfect counterpoint.

Dulce Pontes:

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