NPR Music: Alt Latino
By: Felix Contreras
April 3, 2018
Vocalist Eleanor Dubinsky is slowly, but steadily, building a body of work that consists of elegant and thoughtful songwriting that slides easily between genres and geography through top-notch musicianship, all in service to a voice that stopped me in my tracks when I first heard it. Her new album, Soft Spot Of My Heart, is her strongest work yet.
Dubinsky's journey is similar to that of so many songwriters — the story of finding a voice to match the music she hears in her head. In her case, that means the songs arrive in either English, Spanish or Portuguese. She lets them determine which language is best suited to express the emotion within.
Dubinsky is a vocalist, cellist, guitar player, songwriter and an intrepid musical explorer, yes — but what she is not is from Latin America or of Latin American heritage. Still, her approach to writing in Spanish, as well as her affinity for Latin music and rhythms, come from a place of respect, aided by musicians from various parts of the Spanish-speaking world, organic and true to a sensibility consistent with the best folk music of Latin America. It proves there is plenty of room under the umbrella we call Latin music to accommodate those who did not have the benefit of a birthright to contribute and, at times, expand the traditions.
Eleanor Dubinsky is prodigiously talented: a gifted multi-instrumentalist with a strong, clear voice and a knack for catchy, open-hearted, multilingual pop that invokes the likes of Maria Bethânia and Carole King. While Dubinsky’s recordings are well worth your time, you need to see her live to appreciate the full package. Her recent performance at NYC’s Joe Pub celebrated the release of her latest album, Soft Spot of My Heart , and it was a knockout. Dubinsky’s multilayered songs — inspired by jazz, soul, Latin, and afro-Atlantic influences — opened up and revealed themselves in performance. Songs like the gospel-inflected “Turn It Around” and “You Are Special, You Are Beautiful” are relentlessly positive, but leavened with enough emotional grit and musical muscle to stop cynics dead in their tracks. The result was a joyous, uplifting and deeply generous performance — to her musicians and the audience alike — that was just the tonic for the frayed nerves of many New Yorkers after another long winter in these parlous times. Go. See her. This is music as medicine for your soul.
- Tom Pryor (Music Journalist; Nat Geo Music, Songlines, Afropop Worldwide)
Town & Style: Eleanor Dubinsky: A Master of Music
An internationally acclaimed musician whose songs are the products of global influences, Eleanor Dubinsky’s passion for music was first nurtured as a 3-year-old learning classical cello in her childhood home in University City. After traveling the world and mastering several instruments and languages, Dubinsky has released three albums and cultivated her musical career in New York City, where she now calls home. It’s here that she also teaches songwriting and performs for children receiving cancer treatment at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
You gravitated to music early on. What is your earliest memory of musical expression?
Taking a music class in University City with my mom. She tells me the teacher recognized talent in me and told her she should put me in music, so she signed me up for cello lessons at the age of 3. I would sit and practice and make stuff up. I didn’t know it was called composition or improvisation at the time, but it seems I’ve always been inclined in that direction.
Read the full feature here.
"It is so precious to hear carefully crafted songs, matching the standard of vintage era New York songwriters like Carole King. Unfortunately, this sense of quality is quite rare now. But at the same time, Eleanor Dubinsky is the exact opposite of routine singers sticking to retro formula. She bravely finds her own way and is willing to take risks. Her songs are filled with joy and desire, but also you hear personal reflections exploring the fragile links between human emotions and responsibility. She always finds a perfect balance between burning passion and understatement - and consistently, her message is supported by crisp musical ideas. Dubinsky plays guitar and cello, and has a wide knowledge of musical languages from Cabo Verde, Latin America, gospel and jazz. Yet her strongest weapon is her voice: a warm, flexible and very feminine tool expressing her stories, not ego."
- Petr Dorůžka, music journalist based in Prague, Czech Republic (recipient of the 2017 WOMEX Professional Excellence Award)
World Music Report
By: Raul de Gama
To be, even an accomplished linguist – as Eleanor Dubinsky clearly is – does not qualify one to be able to sing and emote in every language one speaks. That takes a genuine talent for thinking and dreaming in various languages and this is a gift that keeps on giving in the case of Miss Dubinsky. Spanish (and English of course) are only two of the languages that Miss Dubinsky speaks, writes and sings in. And she makes the most of all of her gifts on Soft Spot of My Heart, an album of ten original songs.
As the title might suggest Miss Dubinsky pursues an emotional way through her music. That she is deeply in touch with that aspect of her character and her life may be the reason why these songs echo with feeling. All this would come to naught, of course, had not Miss Dubinsky the wherewithal to pull it off with aplomb. She is a good songwriter and creates melodies with authentic musicality – the proof of which is in each one of them, especially “Wait For You” in which she may be heard virtually stripped down to sweet, soaring sound of her voice with nothing but the guitar of Wesley Amorim to accompany her through the song. Pulling it off with lithe, high-sprung lyricism confirms that she is a vocalist to reckon with and that it is only a matter of time when the rest of the world discovers that.
CD Baby/ DIY Musician
By Brad Bush/ April 4, 2018
Eleanor Dubinsky didn’t start creating her new album Soft Spot of My Heart with a particular genre in mind. Why would she? Her recordings thus far have deftly defied easy categorization, due not only to the deeply varied international influences she draws upon, but also her ability to seamlessly compose and perform lyrics in English, French, and Spanish. In fact, whatever rough sketches Dubinsky envisioned when this years-long journey began were quickly rendered obsolete: it was the musicians she met along the way that truly gave her new record its life, love, and ultimate direction. You can see and feel those connections being forged in this short video she released late last year, which not only offers a preview of the upcoming album, but also shows the creative process and the intimate bonds formed by musical collaboration, even across languages.
How Eleanor Dubinsky spans genres, crosses borders, and communicates it all through video(s).
Eleanor Dubinsky didn’t start creating her new album Soft Spot of My Heart with a particular genre in mind. Why would she? Her recordings thus far have deftly defied easy categorization, due not only to the deeply varied international influences she draws upon, but also her ability to seamlessly compose and perform lyrics in English, French, and Spanish. In fact, whatever rough sketches Dubinsky envisioned when this years-long journey began were quickly rendered obsolete: it was the musicians she met along the way that truly gave her new record its life, love, and ultimate direction. You can see and feel those connections being forged in this short video she released late last year, which not only offers a preview of the upcoming album, but also shows the creative process and the intimate bonds formed by musical collaboration, even across languages. “I’ve had a lot of life experience with a lot of people from a lot of places…after a certain point the borders fall away and the people are what emerges,” she says in the video, once again acknowledging the inimitable power of meeting and working with new musicians, all of whom lend their own talent and influence to a project that stands alone, its individual elements combining to form music that is, once again, beautifully hard to categorize. It speaks for itself, in many languages.
Soft Spot Of My Heart Album Review by Angel Romero, March 30, 2018
American composer, songwriter and vocalist Eleanor Dubinsky uses various musical genres to express her finely-crafted songs. She has a delightful, engaging vocal style and her lyrics transmit her concern for the marginalized, longing and understanding of human beings from diverse cultures.
On Soft Spot of My Heart you’ll find a captivating collection of songs that incorporate jazz, gospel, soul, Americana, pop and world music elements.
The album was recorded in Portugal and New York City, which allowed Dubinsky to collaborate with a group of artists representing different musical genres and nationalities, including musicians from New York, Brazil, Cape Verde, and Portugal.
Eleanor Dubinsky spent several years abroad in Europe, Argentina and Mexico, where she learned French and Spanish. She writes her songs in English, French and Spanish. Meanwhile, she was exposed to Cape Verdean and Angolan music. Portuguese-Cape Verdean singer Sara Tavares became a major influence. Eleanor Dubinsky met of the musicians Tavares works with frequently. Three of these talented musicians, bassist Rolando Semedo, percussionist Miroca Paris, and drummer Ivo Costa appear on Soft Spot.
Dubinsky sings in Spanish on two songs. “El sabor de la vida,” includes a fascinating mix of world percussion, soulful vocals and gospel. “Cuando voy a mi trabajo” features vocals in three languages and is the most world music-oriented track featuring global rhythms, great bass lines and acoustic guitars.
There’s a great blues-infused climactic song titled “I Let Go,” in which Dubinsky adds cello, which is one of the instruments close to her heart.
By George W. Harris, March 26, 2018
Female vocalist displaying charm and flexibility…
Not only does Eleanor Dubinsky sing on this album with Rolando Semedo/bass, Frank Ponzio/piano, Wesley Amorim/guitar, Ivo Costa/drums and Miroca Paris/percussion, but she composes the wide ranging selection of tunes. Her voice has a folksy casualness to it, being confessional with Ponzio on “Free Again” and comfortingly poppish on “Turn It Around.” Sarah Abigael Stone’s cello adds drama to Dubinsky’s vocal climax on “I Let Go” whereas the nylon strings add droplets of dew on the tensile “Wait For You.” Some international lyrics as she gets Spanish on “El Sabor De La Vida” and Iberian for “Cuando Voy A Mi Trabajo” displaying a calm and assuring charm all throughout this alluring session.