Cesária Évora’s sodade: longing, missing, dreaming

In memory of my father on the ninth anniversary of his death, I thought I’d share one of his favorite artists and one of the most beautiful voices ever recorded. Cesária Évora (1941-2011) was one of the most acclaimed singers in the world. She was known as the “queen of Morna,” Morna being widely considered the national music of Cape Verde. According to Wikipedia:

“In the 1960s, she started singing on Portuguese cruise ships stopping at Mindelo as well as on the local radio. It was only in 1985 when at the invitation of Cape Verdean singer Bana she went to perform in Portugal. In Lisbon she was discovered by the producer José da Silva and invited to record in Paris…Évora’s international success came only in 1988 with the release of her first album La Diva Aux Pied Nus, recorded in France. Her 1992 album Miss Perfumado sold over 300,000 copies worldwide, and included one of her most celebrated songs, “Sodade”.

I listened to “Sodade” on repeat so many times, my CD skipped and I had to buy another. Please enjoy the gorgeous, luscious melodies below and maybe drink some red wine to feel the full effect of the melancholy evoked.

In memory of Dave Lamb of Brown Bird

In December of 2013, I wrote about the folk-blues duo Brown Bird’s Dave Lamb’s fight with cancer. I bought all their albums and listened to the song, By The Reins, incessantly (and still do). As I reflected on another young cancer fighter who died last week, my thoughts went back to this group and Dave Lamb. I hadn’t heard anything so I went to the band’s website and found out sadly that just four months after my post, he too died from his cancer. I was so sad to hear that as I thought the treatment may have been working. It’s been almost a year since he died, and I want to pay tribute to his legacy by dedicating this post to him and the beautiful music he and his partner MorganEve Swain made together.

Doc Watson’s magical guitar-picking

Photo by Lee Tanner. 1969.

Photo by Lee Tanner. 1969.

Today is the birthday of Doc Watson, so in his honor I dug down on Youtube to find some examples of his genius guitar playing. According to Wikipedia: “Arthel Lane ‘Doc’ Watson (March 3, 1923 – May 29, 2012) was a blind American guitarist, songwriter, and singer of bluegrass, folk, country, blues, and gospel music. Watson won seven Grammy awards as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Watson’s flatpicking skills and knowledge of traditional American music are highly regarded.”

I first heard Doc Watson while living in Washington, D.C., where old-time, bluegrass, and flatpicking guitar has a very strong tradition, with it being so close to Virginia and other southern states where these styles developed. I used to listen incessantly to WAMU and their various bluegrass and old-time music shows. I’m not sure the first time I found out about Doc Watson, but he is surely someone anyone who loves American music should know about. He has influenced so many guitarists and he also lived a long life and had an amazing career. This style of guitar picking inspired me to take guitar lessons where I focused on the finger-picking country blues styles.

Here he is with “Southbound” written by his son Merle Watson, who died young and tragically in a farm accident:

Doc plays one of my favorite old-time songs “Darlin’ Corey”:

Doc shares the stage with bluegrass legend, banjo-player Bill Monroe playing “Sally Goodin”:

With the blues tune “House of the Rising Sun”. So many amazing versions of this song, here is Doc’s contribution:

I have listened to this song on repeat on my iPod for weeks at a time, honestly. “Country Blues”: