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Elba Ramalho
Leão do Norte
BMG Ariola (7432137673-2)

Brazilian northeastern music has been a well-kept secret for many years. Sometimes ostracized, neglected, or called music for maids and taxi drivers (that was actually used as a subtitle for a CD a few years back), "forró" is now enjoying its well-deserved place in the vast Brazilian musical panorama. Besides world-renowned accordionist Sivuca, a new generation of performers has kept the forró tradition alive and well. Elba Ramalho, in particular, can be regarded as the queen of the "sertão," the Brazilian hinterland.

With Leão do Norte (North Lion), Elba Ramalho strikes again. Following her successful 1993 compilation, O Grande Forró de Elba Ramalho, and her 1995 Paisagem, Elba knew that sticking to her northeastern roots was the formula for yet another major release. Leão do Norte is beautifully produced by Robertinho do Recife with the artistic direction of Sérgio de Carvalho. The songs recorded cover just basically any variation of forró: xote, xamego, arrasta-pé, and even frevo. The instrumentation is the best and most truthful you can expect in a forró recording: triangle, accordion, bumba (a kind of drum), and not much more. Nothing else is needed. Elba's voice and the rhythm will take care of it all. Press the repeat mode on your CD player and your party will be effervescent!

As if Elba by herself were not enough, Lenine, Zé Ramalho, Robertinho do Recife, Dino 7 Cordas, Boca Livre, and Dominguinhos show up as special guests. The songs are by Geraldo Azevedo, Capinan, Dorival Caymmi, Luiz Gonzaga, Humberto Teixeira, Zé Ramalho, João do Vale, Antônio Maria, Caetano Veloso, and of course, Chico César (who isn't recording him these days?), among others. It would be hard for anyone to talk about this release without using superlatives. It is simply the best overall Brazilian CD release of 1996.

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