Album Review: Inês Loubet – ‘Senga’: vibrant samba-fusion sounds from a song-writer to watch.

The Breakdown

What comes across from this sophisticated debut album is the depth and maturity of the song-writing. The tunes on ‘Senga’ have grown with Loubet during her experiences over the past few years and they resound with her soulful reflections

Portuguese, London-based singer-songwriter Inês Loubet makes Tropicalia toned music of openness and honesty, which reaches out to people while following its own course. She was vocalist and co-writer in the latin-jazz, fusion-facing ensemble Caravela whose intoxicating album ‘Orla’ sent the UK scene slightly giddy in 2021 (see Backseat’s review HERE). That document was shaped during the band’s sabbatical in Bahia, Brazil, a time when Loubet also started writing solo material which is now, through careful twists, turns and considerations, emerging as her solo debut ‘Senga’, via Adam Scrimshire’s ever-giving label, Albert’s Favourites.

Featuring amongst others, Caravela buddy, percussionist Jansen Santana and guitarist/producer Greg Sanders, ‘Senga’ sets out to bring Loubet’s many pathways together, from Portugal, through Brazil and to her current home in London town. It’s a recording that certainly travels well, reflecting on relationships and family, place and connection in a way that you can readily share, consciously thoughtful, joyful but touched with the authenticity of the everyday. Take the sprightly bossa of Haja Paciência which makes for the perfect introduction to the ‘Senga’ song-book with its brisk, pirouetting guitar patterns, agile percussive skip and Loubet’s warm, welcoming vocal. It’s a persuasive tune, easing you over the threshold but then springing a few neat surprises, shifting pace through to hustling rhumba hook with a gorgeous flowing glide.

It’s such unobtrusive variations and gentle twists that give Inês Loubet’s music on ‘Senga’ a distinctive sparkle. Sambo Mesmo Sem celebrates the significance of samba as an art form by highlighting its shape-shifting inventiveness. There’s a swung almost skanking bob to the rhythm and with its pop-tinged synths, electric guitar fills plus fulsome backing vocals, the song has that contemporary Axé vibe. Taking things down the samba-funk avenue, the upbeat Guri finds time for jazz pauses and a perfect Steely Dan/’Peg’ era guitar break. Maybe though, it’s the silky Sab Sabim that glistens with the finest detailing. Set to a rolling coladera shuffle with Peu Meurray’s thrilling touch adding to the rhythmic weave, the gentle accordion waves plus a husky sax brake complement Loubet’s fluent vocal as it pleads for social change.

What comes across from this sophisticated debut album is the depth and maturity of the song-writing. The tunes on ‘Senga’ have grown with Loubet during her experiences over the past few years and they resound with her soulful reflections. Added to that she has assembled a band alongside Sanders and Santana, who intuitively tune in to those emotions. Ruta Spinola’s flute brings a fresh, breeziness at all the right moments while Peu Meurray’s expressive percussion and Julio Castro’s melodic bass playing add much to the album’s creative drive. Make no mistake though as writer, arranger and producer Loubet leads from the front but it’s a credit to her skill and vision that ‘Senga’ hums with a collective spirit.

Such shared vibrancy also comes through on the more folksy, subtle songs in this collection like the dreamy, almost trad sounding Sapo Jacare or the swaying, sunset-tinged Mel De Abelha. Loubet’s calm, versatile vocal has an individual beauty about it which colours these more subdued songs exquisitely while underlining her capabilities as a singer who naturally connects and communicates. On the sultry MPB of Dandē Da Bahia she eases through her Fado-like range in such a relaxed style that it feels like a natural conversation. In contrast on the captivating, sombre Semente Loubet brings a hint of insecurity laced with resilience to this thoughtful balanced duet with bassist Castro’s distinguished vocal.

Closing with the restrained but heartfelt A Todas As Mulheres, you are left in no doubt that Ines Loubet is an artist who follows her own instinct and path. On this richly rewarding album there is no need for a grand finale that would muddle the story which ‘Senga’ unrolls so readily. It will be intriguing to see where she takes her song-writing from here but one thing is for certain. On the basis of the impression ‘Senga’ leaves, plenty of people will be waiting to find out.

Get your copy of ‘Senga‘ by Inês Loubet from your local record store or direct from Albert’s Favourites HERE

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