For starters, Evora is the voice of Cape Verde, the West African islands first populated by Portugese traders and African slaves in the 1400s. Her music combines European flavor with Latin American drama and immediacy, an organic, vital blend that pairs warmth and imagination with world-weary sultriness.
Nearly every song on Miss Perfumado is a morna (a yearning-filled ballad), and the gently textured acoustic guitar, piano, harmonica and percussion create a smoky atmosphere that enhances the beauty of Evora's lonesome voice. "Sodade," named for a bone-deep longing that is an essential part of Cape Verde's history and character, renders this emotion with such power and beauty that one woman's voice clearly speaks for an isle of ghosts. If Miss Perfumado has a flaw, it's the music's overwhelming wistfulness -- Evora's grace almost gets swamped by a sense of nostalgia.
On Evora's lighter-toned debut, she sings uptempo numbers in a surprisingly spry fashion, given that her recording career started when she was 47 years old. These contemporary arrangements testify to the vitality of her talent while contradicting common assumptions about youth and excitement in exhilarating ways.