CRISTINA BRANCO

"Sensus"

Decca

Fado singer Cristina Branco doesn't waste any time getting to the forlorn heart of the matter on "Sensus." Recorded in Portuguese, it opens with "Sonnet of Separation," a lyric by Brazilian composer Vinicius de Moraes that captures in a single verse the poetic, soul-aching sound of fado: "Suddenly, no more than suddenly / The lover was transformed in sadness / And contentment into solitude."

What follows is an erotic song cycle of sorts, inspired by a collection of writings from diverse sources, including Shakespeare and Portuguese poet David Mourao-Ferreira. The latter's contribution, "No Sooner Than You Undress," is the first of several songs that have more to do with sexual desire than emotional loss: "And the night understands/ When it sees you undressed / The great mystery / Revealed in the light of day."

Emotions aren't always so tenderly -- or politely -- expressed, however. Pedro Homem de Mello's "Assault," for example, is bitter to the end: "But no one (not even you!) / Realizes that everything I destroyed / Was the image of your body: white, firm, intact, nude." Maria Teresa Horta's explicit "Secret" leaves even less to the imagination.

A little smoldering night music? At times. But Branco's soulful soprano -- and her band's simpatico support -- frequently turn "Sensus" into something far more personal and passionate.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Tuesday at the Inter-American Development Bank Cultural Center. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Cristina Branco, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8104. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)