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On "Pitanga" by Michael Pronko

On her wonderful follow-up to her first excellent release "Atlantica," "Pitanga" finds Mio Matsuda bringing in more styles and variations. Ranging from Portuguese to Brazilian, with a dash of chanson and pop feeling, all her songs are given the graceful beauty of her full voice and deep feeling. This time out, fado is more of an influence, and less the defining style, that flows through all the works. From the rollicking "Paraiba" to the slow "Melodia Sentimental," Matsuda flows over the lilting rhythms and through the gentle harmonies of lovely songs. It's as if she can't choose anything but beautiful songs, and then make them all the more stunning. She sings easily in Portuguese and Japanese, so easily that at times you lose track simply because all the languages flow so elegantly into the total sound. Accompanied by just acoustic guitar as on the title track or by a small group as on Oracao, her rhythm is especially striking. Unlike most singers, whose bands struggle to fit the lead singer, Matsuda creates a perfect balance with the musicians, moving together with them as easily as if dancing in a carnival parade. Her singing has more strength and confidence than on her first release, as if she is most of the time kicking back on the beach, then just happening to show up in the studio. Mostly, though, it's the joy and pleasure in "song" that really shines through. The intimacy of each song makes it feel like she's in the room together with you and good friends, which is a very good place to be!

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