[171] Dorival Caymmi – Caymmi E Seu Violao

23 Apr

A serviceable voice and some basic finger-picked guitar – not exactly a recipe for excellence. Yet somehow I am entranced from the first.

caymmi

That Dorival Caymmi’s voice is nothing to write home about, and that his guitar work is simple and understated just means that I am left listening to the whole, rather than the parts. And there is something about this whole.

These recordings are described as songs of the sea, and these Brazilian sounds seem to combine the raw picking and chatting of Folk with the understated emotion of the best crooners. It is an arresting combination, and I am quickly immersed.

It probably helps that I have always lived by a body of water, from the Thames Estuary to the English Channel, from Manhattan’s East River to Lake Surprise. The water flowing towards the sea is in my blood, and I can hear its distant roar even in the quietest of these tunes.

Living near water, I believe, is the reason for my poor sense of direction. I get easily lost without concrete directions, often even in places where I have been many times. But I always know where the nearest large body of water is, so really, how lost could I get. At worst I just head towards the water, at which point I have a solid starting point and I am able to get unlost.

It’s a theory.

Caymmi’s is a “nice” voice, and I use this adjective with enormous intentionality as a lifetime Liberal Arts student who had the word all but beaten out of my vocabulary at an early age for being functionally meaningless. Caymmi carries a tune, but does not leave a listener breathless in the way many great vocalists do.

Again, this sounds like it should be a knock against a guitar and voice recording, but instead I can’t take my ears off of it. The very everyman nature of the whole is captivating – a guy relaxing on his porch, rather than a star on stage or even a busker on the street. It’s like a mere mortal singing Sinatra, and there is something humbling about the result.

I want to learn these lyrics, these tunes, to whistle and hum them as I go about my day. I want to learn Portuguese (albeit in a fanciful I-am-not-really-going-to-learn-Portuguese fashion.)

Caymmi owns these songs in a way that many artists never totally embody their recordings, a result perhaps of him being the sole songwriter credited on all but one of the dozen tracks here.

This album affects me so quickly and so deeply that I immediately explore further, into his earlier Sambas de Caymmi album. These are big band recordings of the bossa nova / samba movement he helped to birth in Brazil, hugely different from the ballads of Caymmi E Seu Violao.

I am just as quickly struck by the fact that I have made a mistake. In the familiar big band swing surrounding, there is nothing here jumping out at me, and I’d rather just be listening to Sinatra. Not to mention that the raw clarity of the later album is missing in this muddy mix.

Tom Moon knew what he was doing when he highlighted the spare, simple side of Caymmi.

Which is what I return to, cutting short my ill advised foray away from the path, back to the wind and the waves and the women by the water.

Next Time: Emmanuel Chabrier – Le Roi Malgre Lui

Owned before blogging? No. (14 of 171 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No. (23 of 171 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes. (143 of 171 = 84%)

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