In her Spanish-language songs about love, heritage, and slavery days, Susana Baca elevates the nearly extinct Afro-Peruvian blues--its sambas, landos, and alcatraz rhythms--to high art. Like Bahia diva Virginia Rodrigues or Cape Verde morna singer Cesaria Evora, Baca is part of a new generation of international female vocalists who take an almost chamber-music approach to their respective styles. On this album, that means augmenting her usual band with such musical guests as keyboardist John Medeski (of Medeski Martin & Wood) and electric guitarist Marc Ribot (Los Cubanos Postizos), who add almost imperceptible instrumental shimmers to her band's understated yet undeniably robust (and often Cuban-flavored) grooves. Like the blues, Baca's resonant lamentations, sung in a voice reminiscent of antique bamboo, transcend sadness with deeper and subtler emotional flavors.
Reviews"Her second album, Eco de Sombras , produced by Craig Street, the mastermind behind Cassandra Wilson's crossover pop success, with guest contributions by "downtown" New York jazzers, electric guitarist Marc Ribot and acoustic bassist Greg Cohen. Ms. Baca is reinventing a "shadow" tradition in her own cool image, and Mr. Street and company's clean, atmospheric production only serves to refine and strengthen her approach. Ms. Baca articulates precisely in a clear, light alto voice; in matters of lyric content, she favors fragments of poetry by her Peruvian contemporaries. Eco de Sombras does a much better job of sorting out the singer's persona and her material. On the opening track, "De Los Amores," the girlish drama of Ms. Baca's voice is a perfect match for a Javier Lazo lyric that would do Neruda proud: "I cry in the usual place/ I fill myself with your sweat." The succeeding nine cuts offer an artful tour of the explicitly Afro-Peruvian, borrowings from Cuba and Brazil to fill in the considerable musical gaps, and a touch, mercifully just a touch, of an Andean sadness heard in Mr. Street's deployment of the panpipes. Especially deft is the way Ms. Baca shifts back and forth from the ardent self-involvement of the romantic ballads to a harder, more impersonal voice she uses on traditional-sounding tunes like "El Mayoral" and "Panalivio/Zancudito" that recall the miserable lot of Peru's African slaves. Here, I think the singer is blessed to have been raised in the Spanish language, which sounds equally stirring in the bedroom or on the chain gang. On the song "La Macorina" (no, not "The Macarena"), Ms. Baca has it both ways, sublimely so, commanding her lover to touch her in certain places ("Ponme la mano aquÃ, Macorina")." - New York Observer