13 October 2008

Monday's mp3: Black Magic Lila

Lila Downs: Shake Away

I like to think that I'm the first to hear new global albums, but this one snuck up on me. I was listening to KAOS radio, and heard an eyebrow-raising version of Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman" (which, frankly, I think of as a Santana song).

Turns out it was Lila Downs and guest Raul Midon, from Downs' new album Shake Away. Her previous project was a collection of Norteno, corrido, and cumbia music called La Cantina, with a very different feel.
Lila Downs - Shake Away - on SoundRoots.org
On this latest outing, Downs teams up with a variety of guests: Mercedes Sosa on "Tierra De Luz," La Mari on "Ojo De Culebra," Ixaya Mazatzin Tleyotl on "Perro Negro," and others.

I dove hard into the opening track "Little Man" with its blast of horns and biting observations of cross-border matrimony. But the album feels unsettled, with a roots feel here, a jazz feel there, and odd bits of border-music-meets-New-Orleans elsewhere. I'm less than smitten with several tracks, such as the draggy "I Envy the Sun" and the smarmy "I Would Never," despite the fascinating variations in Downs' powerful voice (which is particularly apparent on the title track!).

Maybe that reveals a bias against her English-language songs, but I like the rhythm of her voice and her musical choices much better on the Spanish (or bilingual) tracks. Her breathy rap on "Justicia," her reedy voice on the accordion-driven "Taco De Palabras," her twang on "Skeleton."

I'm a fan of variety, but Shake Away goes in so many directions, I'm not sure what holds it together as an album. Which won't stop me, however, from repeating some of these tracks over and over again.

[mp3] Lila Downs: Ojo De Culebra feat. La Mari
from Shake Away

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