Tùng Dương – Độc Đạo

The collaboration between fusion guitarist/composer Nguyên Lê and avant-garde pop singer Tùng Dương should have been a groundbreaking one. Unfortunately, the recording of Độc Đạo turns out to be a missed opportunity.

Even though the title track is striking, especially with the arrangement switches from organic vibe with electric guitar to bowed string to uptempo Afrobeat, Tùng Dương’s heavy, roaring delivery doesn’t blend in seamlessly with Nguyên Lê’s fusion orchestrations. Most of the time, Tùng Dương’s voice is overpowering and he only has one set of flow throughout the album. What even worse is when Dhafer Youssef joined him on “Bài Ca Trên Núi.” Their roaring and snarling make the track hair-raising loud. In addition to Vietnamese tracks, Tùng Dương butchers Björk’s “All is Full of Love” as well as Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” His phrasing on “Your phone is off the hook / Your doors are all shut” sounds trite. Placing a Björk’s futuristic vibe in Vietnamese traditional sound is quite capricious. As for “Redemption Song,” Tùng Dương lacks the Jamaican’s nuances to pull off lines like, “Old pirates, yes, they rob I / Sold I to the merchant ships / Minutes after they took I.”

As for Nguyên Lê, his guitar chop is very distinctive, but it has the same aching sound in most of his playing not only on this album. Unlike many raved reviews coming from the media in Vietnam, Độc Đạo is a big disappointment.