CANTADORA is a project between husband and wife duo Kristine Barrett (vocals) and David Robert Johnson (Spanish guitar), and more recently, Gavin Smith (clarinet) highlighting music from cafés and city burrows from around the world; from Sephardic, Italian, and French to Greek, American jazz, and European cabaret. Best described as ‘folk cabaret’, Cantadora mingles jazz, bossa nova, and traditional folk melodies from Sephardic Spain, Italy, Greece, America, Brazil, Russia, Estonia, France, and beyond. It is also a love story.
“Dave and I grew up together in a small industrialized farming town in Iowa. As teenagers, we found refuge in one another and our joint musical collaborations, spending nights and weekends hunkered down in Dave’s parents’ basement making terrible rock music that combined his upbringing of rock and jazz with my own confused rock, folk, 1940’s and 50’s Hollywood musicals, surf rock, and strange Swedish-American ragtime jazz. We eventually lost touch as adults, navigating our separate lives over continents and years until Dave reached out to me while miserable and lonely cooking aboard a yacht in the Caribbean. He moved to the Bay Area, sight unseen, and after a fourteen-year hiatus, our first musical collaborations began in the evenings aboard the houseboat Inshallah, where we shared lentil soup and wine, rowed across the lagoon in the moonlight, and fell in love. Dave introduced me to bossa nova, jazz, and various Brazilian composers, while I taught Dave Sephardic and Italian tunes. After years adrift across the world, we were home. The music on this album represents what it means to be lonely, lost and found, drifting, seeking, and loving.
I was granted an artist residency at Ricklundgården in Saxnäs, Swedish Lapland where Dave and I recorded our first album in June of 2019. In the silence of the midnight sun, settled amongst the rugged landscape of my ancestors, we left behind our hectic SF Bay Area lives and immersed ourselves in the beauty of this music and the non-human world around us. Cantadora is really a love story: of both our deep bond to one another and to the pure joy of creating music. A play on the feminized Spanish/Italian/Portuguese word ‘cantador,’ meaning troubadour/singer - one who carries myths and stories passed on orally - a storyteller. The album reflects the music Dave and I learned and carried in our bodies in the years we spent separately wandering the world, becoming adults, and learning to feel comfortable in our skin. It is the music that fed our souls in the jungles of South Africa and roach-infested apartments across the Midwest and Southern US. The music also reflects the travels we’ve since done together, many tunes introduced by friends in Greece. This music is not static. It is our belief that music; and traditional music in particular, are living breathing entities whose ability to shapeshift, comfort, and articulate the human experience speaks to their power and humanity.” You can pre-order the album here.