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World Music CD Reviews Europe

CHRISTINA BRANCO

By Tom Terrell
Published March 24, 2006

Corpo Illuminado
Decca

Like America’s blues, Jamaica’s reggae and Argentina’s tango, Portugal’s fado was birthed in the squalid underbelly of society-at-large. No-frills (one voice, three acoustic guitars) folk songs reeking of sweat, tears, passion and saudade (fatalistic sadness), fado eventually transcended stigma to become a universal art form that embodied, manifested and represented the mind-heart-soul spirit-cosmic essence of an entire people. All praises are due Amalia Rodrigues. From 1939 until her death in ’98, Rodrigues was the Only Fadista That Mattered. Of the many fado recordings that have emerged post-Amalia, the darkly beautiful Christina Branco’s recent Corpo Illuminado proves her to be the next generation diva with the most cake. Blessed with a heartbreakingly tremulous three-octave contralto and a killer band (Custodio Castelo, Portuguese guitar; Alexandre Silva, guitar/viola; Fernando Maia, bass guitar augmented by six guest guitarists), Branco sighs-moans-whispers-smolders her way through 16 new/old fados. From the lilting elegance of “Meu Amor e Marinheiro” to the languidly bittersweet “Mil Janelas” to “Disse-te Adeus e Morri”’s tear-stained melancholia to her haunting, album-closing acappella rendition of the traditional song “Molinera,” Branco’s Corpo Illuminado is saudade nirvana.