Album Review: Claudia Aurora – Mulher do Norte – A gem of an album

The sleeve notes have an unusual credit: jewellery by Antonio Goncalves. Why would it say that, I thought, there are only a couple of pictures with the album. And then you notice the one gorgeous earring not ostentatiously but obviously displayed by Claudia on the cover. A clear blue unadorned gemstone that immediately makes me think of the sea, and the timelessness of Portuguese fado.

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There are many people more able than me to comment on contemporary fado recordings and judge them against the great names of its history. The classic Portuguese ballad has one disadvantage to me: it can be so stylised in terms of the rhythms, scales and instruments it uses – particularly the twangy Portuguese guitar – that to be honest, one fado can sound very much like another, all very lovely but often similar.  I’ve not spent enough time hanging out in Barrio Alto bars in Lisbon. But then maybe that is the point of the earring. Just as Claudia Aurora is displaying a classic piece that adds to her beauty without being overly showy or making a grand statement, she takes fairly well-worn fado forms and allows them shine.

Of the twelve pieces on the album eight are co-written by Aurora and guitarist Javier Moreno. They sit so comfortably alongside the bouncy song by fado queen Amalia Rodriguez that you would scarcely know these are new compositions. But the slower lyricism of Amantes and Lua and the spoken word of A Tua Ausencia show that Aurora is subtly making the genre her own and bringing her own influences. Looking through the English translations, the lyrics reflect classic themes of love, night, cooking, the gypsy woman and of course suadade. Seems like straight-up fado to me.

It’s a beautiful album, maybe all the better for being in some ways understated. The songs – like that clear blue earring – stand out, and one’s attention is focused on them, so that for a moment one doesn’t take note of Aurora’s voice, until you realise that it too is calmly and exquisitely beautiful – and perfectly suited to the songs it is singing. A gem of an album.

As ever, buy direct from the artist if you can
https://red-orange-recordings.bandcamp.com/album/mulher-do-norte

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