Susana Baca Eco de Sombras (Luaka Bop)

Eco de Sombras (Luaka Bop)

Susana Baca

Eco de Sombras (Luaka Bop)

For her third album on David Byrne's Luaka Bop imprint, 50-ish Afro-Peruvian singer Susana Baca shifts from the spotlight-on-vocals focus of her two previous efforts -- Soul of Black Peru and its eponymous follow-up -- to a more group-based, organic sound. Recorded in a home studio, or more accurately, Baca's casa turned into a living studio, Eco de Sombras captures her band -- cajón, bass, guitar, and percussion -- playing live. Producer Craig Street does a fine job capturing all the natural spontaneity on tape, and it's a safe bet that Street (k.d. lang, Meshell Ndegeocello, Cassandra Wilson) and Byrne had a hand in suggesting the interesting-but-effective cameos: Greg Cohen (John Zorn) on bass, Mark Ribot (Tom Waits) on guitar, and John Medeski (Medeski, Martin & Wood) on keys. The result is a natural-sounding collection of mostly mid-tempo, smoldering, and sinewy songs, replete with fun little melodic explorations like the long instrumental outro of closer "Xanahari." Opening cut "De Los Amores" begins with bells, then a gut-string guitar dances with a moaning, enveloped, slide. A striding bass enters the sonic picture, preluding Baca's breathy voice, alive with intimate pronunciation. The bass intro of "Reina Mortal" could almost pass for Reggie Workman, and even after percussion and fingerpicked guitar flesh out the bassline, once Baca's honey-hued voice comes in, it's all about the Afro-Peruvian songstress. And that's the way it should be.

***.5

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