During the holidays my wife and I met a charming couple one morning at a bed-and-breakfast. Through the course of conversation we learned they were on their honeymoon, and they were musicians. At the time we knew they were a most-gracious and engaging pair. What we didn't know until we got home and listened to their present album was how good musicians they were.
Their group is Acústica ("acoustics" or "sounds"), and the name of their disc is Cuatro Vidas ("Four Lives"). The members of the band represented on the album are Dolores Villareal, vocals; John Orr, guitar and vocals; Dave Ambrose, bass guitar; Matt Crichton, percussion; and Ray Coffey, guest saxophone and flute.
The star of the show is Ms. Villareal, a multi-linguist singer, percussionist, and songwriter. Ms. Villareal sings in nine different languages, her most-recent Finnish. On the album's program she sings in Spanish, French, English, Portuguese, and Cape Verde creole. Her voice is lovely--sweet and tender one moment, big and powerful another. More important, she uses a good deal of flexibility and nuance to create a wide range of emotions in the songs.
The accompanying players add their own special blend of enthusiasm, imagination, precision, and professionalism to the proceedings. On their own, they are fun to listen to; along with Ms. Villareal, they are even better.
The songs on the album follow:
1. "Amor Di Mundo"
2. "Piel Canela"
3. "Sous Le Ciel de Paris"
4. "Historia Do Samba"
5. "Cuatro Vidas"
6. "Mas Que Nada"
7. "La Vie En Rose"
8. "O Barquinho"
9. "Il Condor"
11. "Whatever Lola Wants"
Are there any drawbacks I could find? The only one I can think of is the usual one I find in pop and jazz programs: It's too short. I suppose I've just become used to classical albums providing something close to a CD's near eighty-minute limit, and this one gives us something more like half that playing time. Oh, well. As they say, it's the quality, not the quantity that counts.
Dave Gager of Bentrabbit Multimedia Studios and Dolores Villareal produced, recorded, engineered, and mastered the album for Acústica World Music in 2013. The sound is up close, as most popular albums tend to be. It provides good detail, though, and here we get no brightness or edginess, just a smooth, natural response. There is also a mild studio bloom that provides a realistic ambience for the group, and Ms. Villareal's voice sounds sweetly lifelike. While there is not a lot of air or depth to the sonics, there is a good, wide dynamic range and strong, quick impact, so we get a pleasantly listenable album.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:
Amazon sells the songs for individual download but, oddly, not the CD. You'll find that at Acustica World Music: http://www.acusticaworldmusic.com/.