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Album Review

For sheer melodic and timbral beauty, there are few languages that can match Vietnamese — like most tonal languages, it sounds like it's being sung even when it's being spoken, and the effect is like a series of delicate, tuned gongs being struck quickly in sequence. The language's inherent lyricism brings an added layer of complexity and beauty to the traditional and dramatic Vietnamese song repertoire, and on this album vocalist Huong Thanh adds yet another layer to those song traditions by teaming up with guitarist, producer, and arranger Nguyên Lê. Lê's arrangements are varied in tone and texture, but almost all are both strange and wonderful, and his guitar solos are exquisite. On "Weaving & Awaiting" there's a gorgeous moment at the end of his solo when Thanh's vocals come back in, but multi-tracked in close harmony; "Plantation Song" flows gently in a jazzy style; "The Swallows' Bridge" features lovely counterpoint between a Japanese koto and a fretless electric bass, over which dances a cool and complex horn chart. Perhaps the album's most beautiful track is the final one, "Tales of the Mountain," on which funky beats bump up against a gentle arrangement, tastefully restrained guitar, and Thanh's otherworldly voice. It's one of the most softly impressive songs on an album that is full of both sweet melodic beauty and subtly dense complexity. Very highly recommended.


Born: 1958 in Saigon, Vietnam

Genre: World

Years Active: '10s

Vietnamese vocalist Huong Thanh rose to fame in the new millennium as her nation's premier jazz talent. Thanh was brought up in a musical household steeped in the cai luong tradition. Mentored by her father, famed vocalist Huu Phuoc, Thanh was trained in the complex musical style blending the demands of a complex tonal language with operatic expression and storytelling. She studied formally in Saigon, beginning at age 13. By 16 Thanh had taken the stage in her first of many cai luong productions....
Full bio
Fragile Beauty, Huong Thanh
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  • 9,99 €
  • Genres: World, Music
  • Released: 25 January 2008

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