Maria Volonté: Portrait – review

(Network/Harmonia Mundi)
By Robin Denselow
The Guardian (UK) – 9 December 2010

Maria Volonté is an intriguingly versatile and original Argentinian singer and songwriter who has been nominated for a Latin Grammy but is little known in Britain, largely, it seems, because no one has bothered to promote her here until now. Born just outside Buenos Aires, and based for a while in California, she has enjoyed a 30-year career in which she has recorded seven albums covering folk styles, Latin rock and (most notably) tango. Her first European release shows what we have been missing. It’s a compilation of songs from all her albums, along with new material recorded this year in San Francisco. It demonstrates how she can mix an intimate treatment of tango classics by the great Astor Piazzolla with songs from Chile and Brazil, along with echoes of late-night jazz and Latin-blues fusion. She has a cool, emotional style, plays impressive acoustic guitar, and is willing to experiment. The best tracks include her own composition 9 Vidas, with its mix of bluesy harmonica riff and Latin dance, a gently passionate treatment of Violeta Parra’s Qué He Sacado Con Quererte?, and the powerful Vidala Para Mi Sombra, in which she is backed only by her own frame drum percussion.

Why haven’t we heard her before?