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.)