Rodrigo Amarante ‘Cavalo’ (Mais Um Discos) CD/LP/Dig 4/5

Rodrigo-AmaranteBrazilian born singer Rodrigo Amarante will be best known to readers as a member of Devendra Banhart’s group, but he has in fact been resident in Los Angeles for the last six years and that is where this debut solo album was recorded. Formerly a member of Brazilian 1990s indie rock band Los Hermanos, Amarante’s approach is part inspired by the work of Brazilian great Caetano Veloso and Vinicius Cantaria and part influenced by singer-songwriting from both the English and French-speaking traditions. There is enough variety on offer here to keep listeners from disparate musical genres happy and the generally pared down accompaniment works a treat. A summery dream-like quality pervades the sparse opener ‘Nada em vão’ with samba percussion straight out of the Jorge Ben samba rock school and it is the latter who is again the inspiration for the funky excursion of ‘Maná’. For melancholic lament, look no further than the delightful ‘Irene’ while a left-field French language surprise comes in the lyrical shape of ‘Mon nom’. English language attempts are not quite as successful, though indie rock fans will certainly appreciate ‘Hourglass’, and the austere sounding ‘Fall Asleep’ is in keeping with rest and features simply piano and vocals. The album ends on a jazzy bass line high with ‘O Cometa’ which is a lovely laid back song to round off proceedings and the kind of song that an older Manu Chao might record. A one-off concert in mid-May in London was a mere foretaste of what the future might hold for Rodrigo Amarante. Inner sleeve notes contain lyrics in Portugese, English and French where appropriate.

Tim Stenhouse