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Sara Tavares - Balancê

Released on Times Square Records, 3/21/06

After bursting onto the Portuguese pop scene at the ripe age of 16, an older and significantly more accomplished Sara Tavares -- now 27 -- delivers a seductive mix of acoustic-guitar-driven pop and vintage soul with her third album, Balancê.

At every step, she pays tribute to her Cape Verdean heritage, infusing her latest collection of love-struck ballads with bouncy African melodies and complex, up-tempo beats. Still, Taraves’ vocals remain the star of the show. Like Norah Jones and Etta James, her smooth, jazzy croon lends emotional weight to the proceedings, making sugary concoctions like “One Love” and “Amore E” far more palatable.

And though she would be wise to expand her repertoire -- there’s an undeniable "sameness" to many of these tracks, pretty as they may be -- Balancê is strong proof that Tavares is finally coming into her own as a modern-day, international diva.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars