Ana Moura ‘Moura’ (Universal Portugal/Blue Wrasse) 4/5

anamoura_3fasePortugese fado singer Ana Moura returns for her sixth album in total, and the music on this occasion embraces both traditional fado territory and, in addition, looks beyond to other influences, pop and roots. This time round the album is overseen by the expert production talents of Larry Klein, who has previously done wonders for both Joni Mitchell and Madeleine Peyroux. Klein’s understated production works well for the majority of songs and is exemplified on the gentle, uplifting number that is ‘Ninharia’, with Portugese guitar in the foreground and the lovely use of dissonant guitar. For those hitherto unfamiliar with this music genre, fado is the Portugese equivalent of the blues. While it may take time to soak on first listen, once fully digested it has the ability to get right under the skin.
Moura excels on the impassioned vocals to the decidedly laid back vibe of ‘Moura encantada’ and the haunting strings make this one of the album’s most atmospheric songs. African tinges creep in on the uptempo, ‘Fado dançado’, while a duet of great refinement and an album highlight comes in the form of ‘Eu entrego’ (‘I give over’) where Moura duets with Cuban diva and Buena Vista Social Club member Omara Portuondo. Fans of the veteran Cuban sound will love this.

In places the pop influence is omnipresent as on the contemporary ballad, ‘Cantiga de Abrigo’, with Klein’s distinctive keyboards adding a touch of sophistication to proceedings. Only on ‘Dia de folga’ does the rock-tinged guitar accompaniment sound out-of-place. This contrasts with the pared down production on ‘Ai eu!’ (‘Oh me!’) which will appeal well beyond the strictly roots audience and fado unquestionably has universal appeal. The Everly Brothers emerge as an unlikely influence on the Afro-Latin meets rock and roll feel of ‘Agora é que é’ (‘Now is the time’) and Moura’s vocals soar over the guitars in stunning fashion.

Ana Maura is now well and truly established as modern-day fadista who, in her native Portugal, is seen as a serious rival to her better known rival, Mariza. Between them, they have done a marvellous job of carrying on the lineage of Amalia Rodrigues, finding new avenues to explore. This new recording expands upon the fado tradition and, in the process, uncovers some new potential areas for cross-pollination.

Tim Stenhouse