Music Reviews

Estrella Morente

My Songs and a Poem

Narada / RealWorld

Sometimes a critic can feel truly intimidated by an artist’s pedigree (especially in dealing with world music). Take Miss Morente, for instance. This 20-year-old songstress is the heir apparent to Spain’s flamenco throne. Her father (and producer), Enrique Morente, is its current ruler and just one reference in a long musical dynasty. A bunch of the woman’s uncles and cousins, the Habichuelas and Carmonas, are also considered some of the greatest musicians in the genre and also play on My Songs and a Poem. Her apparent talent is so immense that this impressive cadre of phenomenal musicians have not only gathered around the young “star” to be on her debut album, but also call her “nightingale.” Hell, she even has Gypsy blood in her veins.

So, what am I, stupid American reviewer, supposed to say when approaching this CD? Most in my position would hail it as the greatest thing to hit from Spain since the Gypsy Kings. I, unfortunately, cannot. My Songs and a Poem is filled with supreme musicianship. The minimalist production captures the raw energy and beauty, the sheer passion of flamenco. Sweat flies from your player. However, the mournful wailing that flamenco often calls for leaves the nightingale often sounding more like a macaw. Maybe it’s the style itself, but Morente’s voice sounds too strained for comfort and, more times than not, leaves your spine spasming in discomfort (think of her 20-year-old American counterpart, Alicia Keys). However, when she’s not called to screech (as in the thoroughly enjoyable “Pepico’s Tangos”) or sings a ballad (“Maguer”), she is better able to claim her own comfort zone and talent. Unfortunately, these are exceptions to the rule on this album, and an instrumental version would have been a much better endeavor for the talented musicians involved in this project.

Narada / RealWorld:

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