By Paul de Barros | Published April 2019
It’s been 10 years since Claudia Acuña’s last album, but the Chilean singer is as warmly expressive as ever on Turning Pages, her most personal effort to date, with five originals. Acuña’s elemental lyrics evoke a life-affirming message, and their musical settings, though rooted in jazz, lean here toward folk-rock and nueva canción, guitarist Juancho Herrera having succeeded pianist Jason Lindner as producer.
Yayo Serka’s annunciatory drums and Grégoire Maret’s curling harmonica get the album off to a dramatic start with Acuña’s “Aguita De Corazón,” which prescribes herbal tea for a broken heart. Ceremoniousness gives way to the chipper handclaps of “Hey,” during which Acuña invites women to join in devotion to the moon goddess, who rises again on “Futuro,” this time surreally smelling like a Federico García Lorca mix of onions, garlic, sea and roses. Seizing the fleeting moment becomes a motif—a firefly flickering through the lilting choruses of “Silencio” or the falling star one might wish upon in the dreamy “Los Tres Deseos De Siempre.”
Acuña also offers a deeply moving Americana ballad, “Home,” sung with a vulnerability that recalls Abbey Lincoln, whose “Bird Alone” receives a superbly spare reading, as well. By contrast, Jimmy Van Heusen’s “But Beautiful” floats through an off-kilter arrangement, a minor flaw in a richly endowed album that closes with an irresistibly hooky lament, “Tu Sonrisa,” a breakup song that manages to sound joyously upbeat.
Even when she’s losing on Turning Pages, Acuña embraces life. May her next recording emerge before another decade passes.
Turning Pages: Aguita De Corazón; Hey; But Beautiful; Los Tres Deseos De Siempre; Futuro; Bird Alone; Silencio; Home; Tu Sonrisa. (37:54)
Personnel: Claudia Acuña, vocals; Juancho Herrera, guitar, vocals; Pablo Vergara, Jon Cowherd (9), piano, keyboards; Carlos Henderson, Michael Olatuja (9), bass; Yayo Serka, drums, percussion; Grégoire Maret, harmonica (1).