World & Latin

Fire Down Below


Recorded in 1993 and released on Milestone in 1995, Walking on Coals was Canhoto da Paraíba's first release in the United States and his third overall. Throughout this 12-track set, he is backed by various small combos, all of whom provide a spotlight for his dazzling technique.

Born Francisco Soares de Araújo, he adopted the stage name of Canhoto da Paraíba at an early age. Paraíba was the Brazilian province in which he was born in 1928. Canhoto means, literally, "left-handed." The only lefty among his musical brothers, he learned by necessity to play their right-handed acoustic guitar in the inverted position. But this dexterity issue was never an issue at all, as he developed a reputation early on as a stunning soloist, a brilliant composer and one of the most high-profile bandleaders among the various regional combos in northeastern Brazil during the 1940s and '50s. Indeed, he is often held up alongside other Brazilian guitar luminaries like João Pernambuco, Baden Powell and Turibio Santos.

Long out-of-print, but now available in digital format, each track on Coals has a heat all its own, sometimes overt and sometimes subtle. Some of the more noteworthy offerings include the rhythmic and percussive "Ta Quentinho" and the more melodic "Mulher Rendeira." "Escadaria" has all the passion and verve that makes Brazilian guitar so appealing, while the poignant closer, "Cordao Amigo," brings the set to a close on a more pensive note.

Canhoto da Paraíba may be a lesser-known figure in the Brazilian guitar tradition, but just below the surface of these burning coals is a glowing gem.