Perhaps best known for being the frontwoman of the renowned Portuguese breakbeat outfit The Bombazines with whom she recorded and released two full-length albums, as well as contributing her vocals to a number of nationally known acts across Portugal, the Porto, Portugal-born and based vocalist Marta Ren has been a part of her homeland’s music scene since the mid-1990s. However, Ren has long been inspired by the funk and soul sounds of the 60s and over the past couple of years, she decided that it was time for her to go solo and front her own soul and funk-based project under her own name, before eventually hooking up with her backing band The Groovelets.
Now, if you had been frequenting this site over the last few months of last year, you’d recall that Ren and the Groovelets‘ debut effort Stop Look Listen was released to critical praise and received airplay from from BBC Radio 6′s Craig Charles, Radio France‘s Francis Viel. Adding to a growing international profile Acid Jazz Records‘ Eddie Piller has also championed Ren and her Groovelets. “So Long” Stop Look Listen’s barn-burning third single was a visceral bit of soul that balanced fury and sensuality with a decided late 60s/early 70s psychedelic feel — in some way nodding at Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking” and James Bond soundtracks.
The Portuguese soul act recently recorded an acoustic rendition of the slow-burning and sensual album track “Smiling Faces” for French radio — and although the live, acoustic rendition leans slightly towards a hushed, jazz standard-like arrangement, the song which features a swaggering, Thelonious Monk-like bass line, some bluesy guitar playing, gentle drum tapping and some ethereal yet soaring organ while allowing room for Ren’s aching vocals, which simultaneously express the longing and profound loneliness of a deeply lovelorn narrator, who recognizes how difficult love can be, especially when they are incredibly unlucky in love — and others seem to constantly stumble upon it.