World Village (www.worldvillagemusic.com)
I had to pull out her previous discs for some comparing and contrasting in order to be sure, and now I am: Marta Topferova has got her groove back. After her impressive 2005 debut La Marea, this young Czech woman who makes Latin music went a trifle soft, though still charming, with the next year's follow-up Flor Noctura. Now on Trova, a title presumably inspired by the rural Cuban style of the same name, she tops them both, trotting out a release that's got spunk, sensuality and, above all, authenticity to spare. The rumbling rhythm of the opening "Juligan" ("Hooligan") wastes no time in giving Topferova's voice some roughness to soften even as that voice has got you suspending more than a little disbelief that the person providing it is from Eastern Europe.
She's learned her lessons well, sounding something like Omara Portuondo one moment and Lila Downs or Mercedes Sosa the next. ("La Pradera" and "Madrugada" even put me in mind of the recently deceased Lhasa de Sela.) So is she merely seeking to imitate whatever Latin divas seem to strike her fancy? Not to my ears. Sounds to me like Topferova's absorbed a love for Latin music and seeks to pay tribute to it in the best way possible, not only in her breathy, precise vocal tones but also her playing of the four-string cuatro that guides the accompanying musicians (on tres, accordion, violin, bass and percussion) through songs recorded in the Czech Republic and touching down in Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia and elsewhere in the lower regions of the West. I'd recommend her other two, but this is truly the Marta Topferova album to get, particularly if you haven't heard her before. - Tom Orr
CD and audio samples at cdRoots