RealWorld, 2001
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artist/label website
Fully aware of her famous name's burden -- with the passing of Cameron de la Isla, her father Enrique Morente assumed the mantle of top Flamenco cantaor -- Estrella Morente's first album My Songs and a Poem was widely praised by the Hiberian cognoscenti and is named after potent coplas by Nobel prize-winning poet Juan Ramon Jimenez. The album was produced/composed by Estrella's father whose impetus for the music was Jimenez' line 'My life was a leap, revolution, permanent shipwreck' . For it, Estrella won an Ondas prize for best flamenco creation of the year, was a Grammy candidate, and snatched two Premios Amigo. In its wake, she recorded 'El Manisero' with Cuban pianist Pepesito Reyes and sang 'Los Cuatro Muleros' in Carlos Saura's last film, Buñuel y la Mesa del Rey Salomón.

Standing in a noble blood line of famous Flamenco singers, guitarists and dancers (father Enrique to left), it's perhaps no surprise that, not unlike for young Potito's hair-raising 1990 debut Andando Por Los Caminos, famous guitarists would assemble around the 21-year old singer. From her uncle, Juan Habichuela (father to the Carmonas of the famous Flamenco-crossover formation Ketama) to the legendary Manolo Sanlucar; from her uncle Jose Carbonell Montoyita on her mother Aurora Carbonell's side (who herself is a famous Flamenco dancer) to her main touring accompanist, intuitively keen Jerez guitarist Alfredo Lagos. Josemi and Juan Carmona add further guitars while Tino D'Geraldo and Antonio Carmona can be heard on percussion.

Enrique Morente
In short, this is an authentic Gipsy juerga from the hills of Granada, across the medieval Albaicin quarter by the Sacromonte caves in which some of these songs were actually recorded. Said Enrique Morente "One of our intentions was to keep the flavour of classic flamenco, while imbuing this 'deep song' with contemporary feeling. More than anything, this has to do with attitude. I love the ancestral, what comes to us from the past, the things that for good or bad have happened to those who lived before us. I love to respect that, because learning from the old and wise is to learn from those who have already passed along the road, yet recapture it with the sound of today."

From the opening cante jondo alegrias and tangos, Estrella establishes herself as a fierce presence emoting with the dangerous intensity symbolized by the bull ring. On the bulerias "Moguer", she turns the stylistic tables to modernity, from the Ketama-esque accompaniment by the Carmona brothers to the smolderingly restrained vocal delivery that goes for a more contemporary Latin song spirit, replete with unison male chorus in the bridge.

"Bulerias of the Bola" again chases the Gitano duende while "Alcazaba" benefits from the virile yet lyrical guitar artistry of Manolo Sanlucar setting the mood for an introspective song about Granada's barrios. "Pilgrims" is a fleet-footed yet fiery bulerias about two cousins headed for Rome and the Pope's matrimonial blessing though, in secret, they're wed already. And so the album moves from up- to down-tempo numbers, from large-scale ensembles to very intimate duets, all overshadowed by the surprising maturity of one so young yet, plainly, raised in this tradition from the very cradle. Aficionados of the art have already drawn parallels to the famed Pastora Pavon 'La Niña de Los Peines', comparing this newest star from the Morente clan to one of the most revered female Flamenco singers ever.

Daughter Estrella
Yet even novices to authentic Flamenco cante will instantly relate to the raw emotional honesty displayed, the highly supportive circle of elders holding the space around the singer, the precarious knife edge balance of tackling technical challenges while diving with abandon into the sung verses' messages. From slight hoarseness due to careless pushing to tenderly breathy ballads; from metallic edge to coquettish seduction, Estrella covers all the bases, the primitive, the elegant, the raw and the polished, affording us a stunning glimpse into the ongoing artistry of living Flamenco.