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Album Review

Buika with Churcho Valdes, 'El Ultimo Trago'

December 21, 2009

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“El Último Trago’’ operates simultaneously on two levels: the swooping, occasionally soaring voice of Concha Buika is buttressed by the nimble, harmonious volleys of Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés. Their collaboration is rounded out by a third, shadow partner: Chavela Vargas, the iconic ranchera singer (born in Costa Rica), whose haunting songs form the raw material of the album. Its melodies are placid, cool, and deliberately understated. Valdés sounds as if he were picking out melodies in a room shared with a sleeping lover, never letting his musical enthusiasm overwhelm the purposeful calm of the groove. Throaty and prone to embellishment, Buika’s voice meshes ideally with her musical partner, taking her cues from Valdés. Songs blend uniformly into their successors, setting a mood rather than making a statement, but album closer “Vámonos’’ is a suitable sendoff, offering an emotionally overpowering mixture of sadness and conviction, like the closing song to an unmade Pedro Almodóvar film. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Spanish director contributed the album’s liner notes. Listen, and swoon to your own imaginary melodrama. (Out now)

SAUL AUSTERLITZ

World
Buika with Churcho Valdes El Ultimo Trago
Warner Music Latina
ESSENTIAL “Vámonos’’