Palm Pictures LLC,
label website
Eleven Love Stories | Once Cuentos de Amor is an unabashedly romantic celebration of classic Venezuelan boleros, culled from authentic sources by historian, producer and music critic Federico Pacanins and spanning composers important in this genre from the 30s to today. The very tasteful and always respectful accompaniment is at once modern and old, sparse yet sophisticated, using, depending on track, a mere Fender Rhodes; seven-string guitar, vibraphone and marimba; steel drums and clarinet; Venezuelan cuatro, mandolin and accordion; piano and percussion.

Exclusively down-tempo, the songs selected for the album perfectly suit leading lady Márquez whose thick, lazy voice weaves potent magic, reminiscent at times of the early Mercedes Sosa, at others hinting at possible parallels with Susana Baca or Cesaria Evora. Envision burnished pipes heavy as the perfume of gardenias, voluptuous as masterfully applied mascera or khol, appearing in the evening hours of a sweltering day in the tropics, the air still laden with humidity but cooled off enough to be comfortable. Dancers would move slowly, with a minimum of effort expended, bodies slightly swaying while imperceptibly turning to the dreamy melodies.

Not a single number here upsets the deliberately relaxed atmosphere of embers in the afterglow of a roaring crackling fire; of the weightiness whereby a slightly oily liquor resists swirling inside a sifter. The listener can't help but be drawn ever deeper into this lair of laziness, reveling in María's occasional overdubbing for some luscious harmonizing, lighting up over cleverly timed trading between vibes and the tremolo of the small Venezuelan mandolin while the guitar upholds the rolling quintuplets of the waltz-like base rhythms. With the exception of one song, drums and percussion are eschewed altogether. This compounds the deep-lounge vibe of after-hours unravelling but completely sidesteps visions of even high-class night clubs - things are too intimate, too poetic to be shared with but the very few.

All of this makes Eleven Love Stories into a smoky gem of an album without any weaknesses. It so happens to also be recorded extremely well, just as was Daboa's phenomenal From the Gekko on which Márquez collaborated. While connoisseurs of the genre, with fluency in its tongue, would surely enjoy added dimensions in the lyrics, this isn't at all a prerequisite to enter this world of twilight passions. Because already two years have passed since its release, this one should find its way into your collection before you're without it for another two years. In heavy rotation - that about describes the effect it'll have once you spin it for the first time...