Okay so maybe like a lot of you, I’ve got a thing for well-executed acoustic soloing. I was humming along, minding my own business, when out of the sky drops this CD by this Portuguese musician whose name I’d never heard. When I read the name Norberto Lobo, I thought first of my dad’s record collection, overflowing with Lobo LPs to my childish distaste. Okay, wrong preconception—but maybe otherwise I thought, “Portugal, huh…what is this, world music
?” Don’t hold it against me—I’ve listened to Lobo’s new album “Pata Lenta” enough times to be completely shaken of any conceptions of kitsch or otherwise fleeting quality. “Pata Lenta” is a solid gold brick of Lobo’s fine-tuned talent enmeshed with an unmistakable channel into his own emotions. Each track is a different shade of this man’s personality, and by the end, there’s no question that Norberto Lobo is a man of great depth, both of culture and emotion—and also one of the finest guitarists I’ve heard in a while.
I’ll be honest: my favorite part about this album is still the technical capacity that Lobo has on display here. As any guitarist knows, it can be difficult to keep a steady rhythm, pluck each string without a mis-step, and keep your tune going in the right direction all at the same time. A tune like “Pata Lenta”, the first one on the disc, is a perfect example of Lobo’s mastery over his instrument. This song is nearly five minutes, and for the entire time it’s a high-energy ride through several cultures musical histories. Lobo blends Mediterranean and Latin flavors with some unmistakably North American influences, and it comes out a total thrill. I think I replayed the first track about a dozen times before ever listening to anything after it. It’s simply amazing in execution and in composition (or improvisation—I suspect there is a bit of both happening here). Other songs on this album exhibit a similar attention to technical detail, but for me the title track is simply the pinnacle of this man’s musical appeal.
And while “Pata Lenta” is brimming with skillful execution, don’t think that means Norberto Lobo is lacking in the emotions department. The music never comes off lifeless, but rather I feel it beginning to seep into my own life to narrate recent events that I’ve experienced first-hand. Maybe that mean’s I’m vacuous and easily-affected, or perhaps it just means that Lobo’s music is so universally identifiable as a powerful expression of humanity. Things are not all up, up, up, though. Inside these moments of sweetness, he weaves also strands of chaos, in which things become atonal, rapid, and nearly cacophonous. It is certainly a dialogue of feelings here on “Pata Lenta”. Often inside of a single song, he goes from sugary harmonies to a controlled frenzy of atonality. The previous melodies can dissolve from before us in a blink, to leave only the rhythm, and it seems whatever notes that the artist happens upon (sometimes it does in fact feel random and entirely improvised). Lobo even becomes a bit overtly dark and mysterious at times, with the track “Zumbido Azedo” (translated to “Buzz Sour”), two minutes that lie barren with the exception of some gargantuan, raucous string-slides and a few notes plucked in between. Even my least-anticipated track “Unravel” (originally an Icelandic tune), turns out to be a beautifully-interpreted number. Actually on that one there are times when I can so clearly hear Lobo’s fingernails against the flesh of the strings, and I feel like hands are reaching through my woofers into my living space. It’s ALIVE!
“Pata Lenta” is an accomplishment for Norberto Lobo. So seldom can a single musician pick up a single instrument, and in only one pass write and perform such a full-sounding piece of artistry. Apparently there are so
few artists capable of this that today we still
have new people re-interpreting two-hundred-year-old piano works every year! Lobo may have borrowed from those long-decaying composers, but everything on this album is his own composition, his own feelings. The entirely new and unique “Pata Lenta” ranges in texture, pace, and cultural influence, but one thing remains constant always—Lobo’s human nature gushing forth all over the room. Skip to whatever track you want, and there he is, telling you a story with six strings, and don’t doubt that it’s true—he doesn’t even look like the kind of guy capable of telling a lie. And I couldn’t be more honest in giving this one 11 out of 10. Well, I’ll play by the rules. But seriously, don’t miss this. Modern acoustic speech has never been this poetic. 10/10 -- Michael Jantz (14 October, 2009)