In order to present Trinh Cong Son’s music to its full potential, a singer must live and breathe his lyrics. While dealing with personal dramas in her life, Thu Phuong found consolation in his words. When she performs his songs, they comfort her heart and bring peace to her mind. As a result, she was able to tap into his emotional consciousness on her newest album Nhu Mot Loi Chia Tay, which translates as Like the Word Goodbye.
In the introduction, Phuong shares with listeners why she chose Trinh’s music and the reason she selected “Nhu Mot Loi Chia Tay” for her album title. She would like to show her appreciation to those who have supported her throughout her career, especially her family members and fans she left behind in Viet Nam. So when she pours her heart into the title track, she means every word she sings: “Muon mot lan ta on voi doi / chut man nong cho toi / co nhung lan nam nghe tieng cuoi / nhu chi la mo thoi” (Want a time to thank life / for giving me passion / several times I lie down, hear laughter / but it’s just a dream). She devoted so much soul into the work that by the time Luan Vu’s violin break saws through our hearts, we are completely shattered. In addition, Peter Pfiefer’s light brushwork is a wonderful enrichment for her singing.
Phuong’s enthusiasm continues to excel on “Mot Coi Di Ve.” Her big, deep, and raspy voice is the heart and soul of the melancholy ballad. The lyrics emulate her life and she holds nothing back. She keeps on streaming her emotional vocals into the notes until they overflow. Again on “Tien Thoai Luong Nan,” the words mirror her hopeless state of mind, and her sincerity is evident. She has not only found her way inside the music, but also allowed her spirit to transcend the lyrics. As a consequence, her singing is calm but filled with fervor.
Phuong and her musical producer give “Dau Chan Dia Dang” a rebirth. They have demonstrated how jazz can reinvigorate Trinh’s work. Despite the age of the song, the feverish jazz spins along with Phuong’s elegant phrases, making the tune sounds as contemporary as ever. Her slightly raucous voice, which coarsens or strains when the word required, is essential for coloring the jazz aesthetics.
Phuong can be as quiet as the underworld, or as huge as the earth itself. While her calm, almost meditative, version of “Nhu Canh Vat Bay,” “Nhin Nhung Mua Thu Di,” “Uot Mi,” and “Cat Bui Tinh Xa” are urging to soothe, her soul-stirring interpretation of “Song Ve Dau” is waiting to explode. The major revelation of all is her voice, big but never brassy, even when the notes are high and long. “Chiec La Thu Phai” is another unforgettable track where she flows passionately in and out of the rumba ballad.
Nhu Mot Loi Chia Tay is what a Trinh album should be: expressive in vocal performance and exquisite in musical production. Not too many of Trinh’s music recordings meet my expectation, but this one fulfilled it. With this album, Phuong has raised the bar for those who would seek to record his work. They cannot just study the lyrics and the phrasings, but they must experience them in order to bring out the true feelings. What could be more devastating for a woman than her inability to return to her homeland and to be with her children? Even as tough as Phuong is, she needs an outlet, and Trinh’s music provided that emotional grip. Phuong, keep your head up. I feel your pain, but if you can make it through the night, there will be a brighter day. The sun won’t rain forever.