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Lau Noah's new single is a fine duet with Cécile McLorin Salvant

Lau Noah (right) with Cécile McLorin Salvant, one of her duet partners on the forthcoming album 'A DOS.'
courtesy of the artist
Lau Noah (right) with Cécile McLorin Salvant, one of her duet partners on the forthcoming album 'A DOS.'

The Catalan singer-songwriter and multi-instrumenalist Lau Noah is the sort of musician who can seem uncannily self-contained — capable of conjuring vast reserves of tonal color and emotional detail with just her voice and a fingerpicked guitar. But her new album, A DOS, due out on Jan. 12, finds express purpose in duologue.

Several advance singles have already illustrated the point — duets with Jacob Collier, with Sílvia Pérez Cruz, with Jorge Drexler, with Chris Thile. Now comes a track recorded with one of our leading jazz vocalists, Cécile McLorin Salvant. Titled “Siete Lágrimas,” it has a back story that connects both artists in interesting ways.

Catalan singer-songwriter and guitarist Lau Noah, whose album 'A DOS' consists of duets with a wide range of collaborators.
Jo Berrojalbiz
Catalan singer-songwriter and guitarist Lau Noah, whose album 'A DOS' consists of wide-ranging duets.

Noah composed “Siete Lágrimas” at her home in Queens, NY in March of 2020, during the first unsettling month of COVID lockdown. Its Spanish lyrics ponder the end of a love affair from a stance of conflicted emotion. Si te vas mañana / Bajo el calor de este sol tibio, she sings, Lloraré seis lágrimas de amor / Y una de alivio. (“If you go tomorrow / Under the heat of this warm sun / I will shed six tears of love / And one of relief.”)

A couple of months after writing the song, Noah posted a video in true pandemic fashion, featuring collaborators multi-tracked in their own domiciles. She eventually featured “Siete Lágrimas” as the opening track on her 2021 album, simply titled 3.

Salvant — who also posted videos during the early stretch of lockdown, including one of the first pandemic livestreams — shares with Noah a flair for narrative tension in her music. Here is how Noah describes their meeting:

“In the beginning of 2023 I was invited to a dinner party [where] I sat next to Cécile, and we spoke about dragons and love. Afterwards, sitting by the fire we all played songs, and once I finished my turn, Cécile said out loud 'you're so weird,' which sounded like the most delightful compliment. It wasn't even two weeks later that I asked her humbly if she'd sing this song with me, and she said yes. We met at Conveyor Studios in NYC and I heard her sing in Spanish for the first time. What a treat... She is a master storyteller, and both my song and I were forever thrilled.”

Among the other guests on A DOS are the Guatemalan singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno, the Israeli jazz pianist Shai Maestro, and the Portuguese singer Salvador Sobral.

A DOS is due out on Jan. 12. Lau Noah will perform at Joe's Pub in New York, with an array of guests, on Jan. 23.

Nate Chinen has been writing about music for more than 25 years. He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for The New York Times, and helmed a long-running column for JazzTimes. As Editorial Director at WRTI, he oversees a range of classical and jazz coverage, and contributes regularly to NPR.