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MUSIC REVIEW: 'Women of the World' does right by diversity

All the singers are women and the music is acoustic, so no one can claim that the title of the eclectic compilation "Women of the World: Acoustic" is misleading. Yet the collection splinters off into several directions from that basic premise.

The latest release from the world-music Putumayo label is loosely connected to International Women's Day, and it ties together two of the label's many initiatives - to promote acoustic music and to promote women in music.

That hardly narrows the focus.

"Women of the World: Acoustic" is a catchall. Those familiar with the label won't be surprised to hear exotic third-world cuts such as the fluid "Sena" by Algeria's Mona, the layered "Bida Mariadu" by Cape Verde's Lura and the earthy "Wa" by Cameroon's Kaissa.

Those cuts are sharply contrasted by the half-Icelandic/half-Italian English-singing Emiliana Torrini, who offers a near-conventional pop song in the gentle "Sunnyroad," and "Prairie Home Companion" regulars the Wailin' Jennys, Canadians who playfully toy with harmony on "One Voice."

Meanwhile, French actress Sandrine Kiberlain sounds sublimely fresh and light on the graceful "M'Envoyer des Fleurs," and Marta Gomez of Colombia makes a pitch for supple understatement on "Paula Ausente." Their soft contributions are counterbalanced by Old-World European theatrics from Greece's Anastasia Moutsatsou ("Ola Ta Aiskola") and Croatia's Tamara Obrovac ("Tuca' la Louna"). Czech singer Marta Topferova twists it even further by sliding in lilting Latin fare with "Grano de Arena," a complement to the sultry bossa nova strains of "Nao se Apavore" by Brazil's Luca Mundaca.

Although none of the songs on "Women of the World: Acoustic" stand out with exceptionality, they are all solid choices to represent talented women at the helm of acoustic arrangements.

And for a release that celebrates diversity and democracy, that's as it should be.

"Women of the World: Acoustic" is released by Putumayo.

Rating: 3-1/2 (out of possible five)

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