various artists,
Women of the World: Acoustic
(Putumayo, 2007)

Colorful, upbeat and consistently enjoyable, Putumayo's world music compilations have an impressively solid track record. The prolific world music label doesn't put a foot wrong in its latest release, Women of the World: Acoustic, which has now been in my CD player for two weeks straight and shows every sign of staying there for a few more.

Released in celebration of International Women's Day on March 8, Women of the World: Acoustic is an accessible and diverse collection of 11 acoustic tracks from around the world, all of which are mellow enough to read or drive to, and all of which abundantly reward closer listening.

Spare acoustic instrumentation emphasizes the beauty of the distinctive voices on the collection. These range from French chanteuse Sandrine Kiberlain's clear alto on the opening track "M'envoyer des Fleurs (To Send Myself Flowers)," a saucily self-affirming antidote to tired old love songs, to the undulating choral harmonies that open Lura's "Bida Mariadu (Bad Life)," to Marta Gomez's plaintive lamentations for a lost daughter on "Paula Ausente."

It's actually difficult to pick out highlights when there isn't a single bad song on the disc. Marta Topferova's "Grano de Arena (Grain of Sand)" is one of the most impressive tracks, featuring Topferova's low, velvety voice, the crisp sounds of the Venezuelan harp and beautifully poetic Spanish lyrics, partially translated in the liner notes. "Sunny Road" by Emiliana Torrini, whose distinctive voice may be familiar from "Gollum's Song" on The Two Towers soundtrack, is a quirky, wistful piece with simple guitar accompaniment.

The CD finishes as strongly as it began with "One Voice" by the Wailin' Jennys. An almost a cappella offering by a Canadian folk trio, it has complex vocal harmonies that build on each other and end in a subtle call for unity.

Don't worry about didactic political messages, however: Women of the World: Acoustic is simply 40 minutes of fantastic unplugged world music. Given geographic and stylistic differences, it's remarkable that the tracks work as well together as they do individually. Asia is, as usual, underrepresented, but its absence becomes inconspicuous when what is included is so good. If you need another reason to buy the CD (though it's hard to see why you would) part of the proceeds from its sale go to the Global Fund for Women. Great music and good karma -- what else could you ask for?

review by
Jennifer Mo

11 August 2007

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