What wondrous joys the summer months brings in with new musicians hitherto unheard of on these shores. Hailing from Chile, singer and accordionist Pascuala Ilabaca is a woman on a mission to popularise Chilean folk music with a modern twist and is accompanied by a terrific band, Fauna, who skilfully weave their way between rootsy folk, brassy jazz and even manage to include a touch of Brazilian musical maverick and genius Hermeto Pascoal. The result is music that is as fresh as a daisy in approach and instantly catchy hooks which linger long on the ear. An interesting fact is that Ilabaca spent part of her childhood in India and has sought to incorporate the numerous sounds of that country in previous recordings, notably a duo album with Samad (aka Jaime Frez) from 2010. However, her own vocal delivery has been heavily influenced by the great folk singers of the Latin American nueva canción tradition and they do not come much bigger than fellow Chilean, the late great Violetta Parra. This cultural icon is paid homage to on the 2008 recording, ‘Pascuala sings Violeta’, which pretty much says it all and hopefully will see the light of day here at some stage. Elsewhere Ilabaca has recorded tribute albums to Victor Jaro, Parra and others on ‘Me saco el sombrero’ (‘I tip my hat’).
Lead singer Pascuala Ilabaca has the most gentle and crystal clear of deliveries, so much so that you would almost think she was a Brazilian singing in Portugese and in the Spanish language idiom maybe Mexican singer Lila Downs is a roughly comparable voice. Her voice hints at, but is not derivative of, Milton Nascimento and there is definitely a Brazilian influence going on underneath and that is part of the magical alchemy here. Her soft as silk vocals are here to full effect on the wonderful ‘Rezos en Montegrande'(‘Prayers in Montegrande’) with a gorgeous clarinet wailing in the background and rhythm guitar which makes for a lovely combination. As with several songs on the album, there is a change of gear part way through and this adds a variety to proceedings that folk-based albums seldom possess. The title track is a lively number with some lovely accordion and a melodic saxophone solo. The general instrumentation makes this writer think of Quebec folk with maybe the subtlest hint of the acoustic side of Gotan Project gently slid in. The band excel on a superior ballad in ‘Es dificil’ (‘It’s difficult’) that suddenly changes tempo and morphs into a jazz-tinged arrangement. Throughout the album clarinettist Miguel Razzouk Igor impresses and conjures up the old world charm of Paolo Conte in places. Ilabaca is fully capable of returning in kind with long wordless vocal passages and this makes the album a delight to listen to. Ostensibly aimed squarely at the Latin American market and recorded in Chile in 2012, the full lyrics and recording details are in Spanish only, but nonetheless beautifully illustrated with a pull out spread of singer and band in the fields of Chile. This might be the Chilean roots equivalent of the Isley Brothers’ seminal ‘Summer Breeze’ in the appropriate use of music to convey the flavour of a season. In the meantime the listener may well just have found their very own nirvana with this deliciously tasty album. Quite simply the ideal accompaniment to a long, hot summer.