Being a flamenco singer in Finland is not the easiest of career choices. One has to be thoroughly familiar with the genre yet be completely genuine and personal in one’s expression. This is further exacerbated when it comes to recording: after all, there would be little point in putting out an album of traditional flamenco, as opposed to something original and heartfelt.
This is the second solo album released by flamenco singer Anna Murtola. She is clearly finding an identity of her own, and La tierra blanca is more relaxed and coherent than its predecessor.
The sense of coherence is augmented by the sound art of Paavo Impiö, providing a variety of soundscapes ranging from wind to the murmur of a brook to birdsong, subtly alluding to Anna Murtola’s native city of Oulu. There are tracks in Finnish here, too: the flamenco material quite comfortably rubs shoulders with Annikin laulu, performed with kantele virtuoso Maija Kauhanen, and Nana / Tuutulaulu, which merges Spanish and Finnish lullaby traditions.
Murtola has written the lyrics herself, some to traditional flamenco melodies and styles, some to newly composed music. In an ingenious move, she provides spoken word versions in Finnish alongside the emphatically flamenco-flavoured Spanish settings, allowing Finnish listeners to connect with the content. Besides, in this context the Finnish addenda sound quite exotic. The lyrics reflect Murtola’s personal experiences as well as landscapes in a concrete sense: it is always windy on the streets, and her late father is omnipresent in the form of a picture on the wall. Murtola’s Spanish diction is mainly good; she could do with some improvement in the relationship between short and long vowels and in the consistency of pronunciation.
Some of Murtola’s musical assistants on this album were involved with her début album as well, such as guitarist Joonas Widenius and producer Venla Ilona Blom (from Tuuletar). Her new collaborator is Swedish flamenco guitarist Robi Svärd, who has co-written with her more than one track with apparent hit potential, such as the deliciously pulsating initial single Northwind buleria and the ballad De azul plomo.
What I feel I was missing was a greater dynamic range on some tracks. The rhythm backing in particular is at times monotonous, and in En mi mar it seems disjointed compared to the calm guitar part. Having said that, the relentless train-like rhythmic ostinato in Rio Rojo goes well with the ominous style of the song.
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi
Anna Murtola: La tierra blanca
(Nordic Notes 2023)