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María Márquez

Tonada

(Adventure; US: 19 Mar 2013; UK: 19 Mar 2013)

This Venezuelan-born US-based singer has a deep voice in the way that Brazilian women singers—especially—can have deep voices, low without being husky, rich, vibrating slightly to show emotional pain where the lyrics call for it (“Déjame”). The album is low-key and steady, no attention-grabbers, just a multitude of smaller moments embedded in the larger body, a sensational gruntle from a tough little Venezuelan cuatro on “Caramba”; that thing sounds almost human. Hernan Gamboa the cuatro player has his name next to a number of these tracks as a co-arranger. Both he and Márquez keep a current of murmuring Venezuelan folk running through the whole thing, with some sidesteps into a more North American idiom (“Wild Card”, jazz) and one completely Brazilian moment with her version of João Donato’s “Amazonas”. This is the point when I realized how low-key the rest of Tonada was, because the album seemed to open its eyes and develop a more complicated personality when the Brazilian song came in. Just brashness maybe. But it seemed more awake.

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