Hien Thuc – Thien Su

In 2009, Hien Thuc released Portrait 17, a Trinh Cong Son’s songbook. With fancy electric beats and slick r & b flavors, the album showed that Hien Thuc lacked the experience to take Trinh’s music to its fullest. Her new Trinh’s release, Thien Su, however, marks a sea change.

What a tremendous improvement in just two years. Hien Thuc has learned the essence of simplicity and the art of phrasing Trinh’s lyrics. On “Vuon Xua,” she sings with just an acoustic strumming guitar courtesy of Tran Thanh Phuong. The spared, intimate accompaniment allows her to articulate Trinh’s words. “Ru Doi Da Mat” is another excellent track with minimal orchestration. The superb arrangement provides her the space to pour out her heart without hitting the high register.

“Goi Ten Bon Mua” is one of Trinh’s most covered tunes, but the new-age mix makes Hien Thuc’s version stands out. The blending of sixteen-stringed zither (dan tranh) melodic lines and subtle electric rhythm is so damn irresistible. The producer also weaved some traditional folk chords into the break. Arranger Huyen Trung has quite an ear for exotic sounds and lush strings. “De Gio Cuon Di” has an elegant, tasteful classical orchestration and the track would have been even better if she had performed the song solo rather than with Duc Tuan.

With effortless flow, classy arrangements and the ability to dig deeper into the lyrics, Hien Thuc has found her own voice in Trinh’s music rather than a duplication of Khanh Ly, Trinh Vinh Trinh or Hong Nhung. She definitely is bringing a fresh new air to the Trinh’s timeless tunes. If there is one thing Hien Thuc can to improve, it has to be her breath control.