Le Cat Trong Ly and Esperanza Spalding share some similar characteristics: they are young and talented; they play a string instrument; they write and sing their original songs; they have their own musical style; best of all, they both rock out a pretty awesome perm. While Ms. Spalding leads her own path to breakout jazz and soul, Ms. Le carves out her own niche away from the mediocre Vietnamese pop scene.
Ms. Le’s self-titled debut begins with “Giac Mong Lon” that immediately sets her apart from the over-saturated pop singers in and out of Viet Nam. The lyrics are simple but thoughtful. The music is kept to the minimal with just an acoustic guitar from Cao Hong Ha and elegant keyboard from Vu Dang Quoc Viet. The interaction between these two young instrumentalists is quite alluring. Love the way Vu Dang comps behind Ms. Le’s sweet, luscious vocals.
“Mua Yeu” is a straightforward but playful piece written when she was 19, at the age she claims that she didn’t know anything about composing music, but loved Mozart and Pham Duy. “Huong Lac” (based on Tram Huong’s poem) is another tune composed in the same time that showcases Ms. Le’s love for northern folk melodies and her guitar-picking skills.
Composed at 22, “Chuyen Xe” shows the maturity in her writing. Right after the closing bars, “Biết em thôi những giấc mơ ngày xưa, ngày nay, ngày mai, ngày sau / Có khi là em chết hơn trăm lần,” Ms. Le glides into her intoxicating blues chords and picks away some soulful guitar lines on the upper register. This girl got some serious chops and let’s hope that she continues to move forward rather than getting sucked into the whirlwind of mainstream pop like Thuy Tien.