Proof that top-notch contemporary fado isn’t restricted to you-know-who. In fact, Mísia has been recording albums that take a modern-day approach to Portugal’s blues for nigh on fifteen years now, and on this — her eighth album — she adds elements of bolero and tango to bring some welcome variety to this most stirring of styles.
The songs are based around the usual components of the genre — Portugese guitar, bass, acoustic guitar and occasional piano — with the odd violin and viola flourish added for extra effect. Mísia has a deeper, more sensual vocal style than her more celebrated counterpart, bringing an intimacy to a very personal set of songs, one that is both a tribute to her mother and a reflection of her own melancholy concerns about love and loss.
Drama Box takes us on something of a musical journey. Opening with the brooding torch song Ese Momento, she takes us through a set of ballads and jaunty mid-tempo numbers in the standard tradition. Included in the repertoire are interpretations of poets such as Vasco Graça Moura. A version of his Fado Do Lugar-Comun is a highlight, theatrically belted out by Mísia to tough but complementary picking from guitarist José Manuel Neto.
The introduction of bandoneon player Victor Villena for the final third of the album helps introduce elements of bolero and tango to the songs, an addition that works particularly well on Los Mareados, where bandonon and violin sensitively underpin the singer’s melodramatic delivery.
Like many albums these days, Drama Box is probably a handful of songs too long, and we could do without the two rather pretentious spoken-word tracks (featuring actresses such as Fanny Ardant and Miranda Richardson). But if you were disappointed by Mariza’s new direction on Transparente, you could do worse than seek solace in this package of dramatic delights.