Diabo a Sete Figura de Gente
Sons Vadios (www.sonsvadios.pt)
Reviews by David Cox
It is my impression that Portuguese folk music stands apart from the mainstream of Southern European and Iberian musics. While much of the region is linked by proximity to the Mediterannean, Portugal looks out into the Atlantic, and like Britain has developed links overseas rather than to the continent.
Portugal, like Galicia, has encouraged and nurtured many strong female vocalists. Two recent recordings from Portugal showcase the bright and tuneful melodies of Celina da Piedade, the singer from Alentejo, south of Lisbon, and versatile Sara Vidal of Diabo a Sete. Both discs come out of the Sons Vadios cultural cooperative, a leading Portuguese folk producer and distributor.
Celina da Piedade's third disc Sol starts in a progressive folk vein, with "Assim Sou Eu" followed by "Acredito", which verges on pop, before moving to a simpler style influenced by fado and Brazilian popular music (MBP). As we move through the disc we hear more and more of her voice accompanied simply by guitar, or accordion, or Da Piedade in backing harmony with herself.
Assim Sou Eu
While Da Piedade and Alex Gaspar have a number of writing credits, she takes on Gilberto Gil's "A Linha e o Linho" which she handles beautifully, and a nice Portuguese version of Atahualpa Yupanqui's well-known "Piedra y Camino".
She's an accordionist also, accompanied here by some notable support including Antonio Beixiga on viola and cavaquino, plus fine guitarists João Gil, São Paulo's amazing Nilson Dourado, (classical) “Cancão de Nanar” and João Eleuterio (of Lisbon's Cindy Kat -- electric guitar) on a bluesy “Amores de Jericó”.
Piedra y Camino
This is a substantial disc with 10 songs and should establish Da Piedade as a singer and songwriter who has mastered the music of her region and is branching out as a strong interpreter and composer of her own work.
This is also the third record from Diabo a Sete, a seven-piece band from more northerly Coimbra that has been active since 2003. However, Figura de Gente is their first featuring Sara Vidal on vocals and harp.
Celso Bento on flute and gaita as well as Pedro Damasceno on mandolin and cavaquino have been longtime group members and have written much of the material for this disc. Five of the eight tracks feature lyrics by Miguel Cardina while the remainder are instrumental. Not an official band member, Julieta Silva is also featured on zanfona (hurdy-gurdy) and piano.
A cross between Madredeus and Oreka TX, Diabo has the ability to create tunes with beautiful, simple intros which build to almost rocking crescendos. “Tamboril,” the second track, has a fun, almost carniavaleque feel, while Damasceno's “Outono Embargado” shows the band's instrumental prowess.
Vidal's composition “Quarto Crescente” is a harp piece with an intro reminiscent of the Basque singer/harpist Olatz Zugasti in its directness and simplicity, but which builds into something more complex and rockier. Vidal, singer from Luar na Lubre (a standout Galician band) and A Presença das Formigas, is a strong presence on the five vocal tracks, but this disc is less about spotlighting her than about a group sounding good together.
Bento and Damasceno are flavorful and talented players; an excellent rhythm section of Miguel Cardina on drums and Eduardo Murta on bass adds an energy of quasi-folk-rock.
This is a pleasant, enticing disc as well and with only eight tracks, and at just under 27 minutes in all, the listener is left wanting more. Quico Serrano and the band do a masterful job of pulling the sound together in the Aguda studio.
Lyrics are provided on both discs, but no translations. - David Cox