Genre: World Music Year: 2004 Country: Canada Official Site: Lhasa Details: Tracks & Audio Label: Nettwerk
If Bjork were to record a mariachi album, it might sound like Lhasa's latest release, The Living Road. In the realm inhabited by the Icelandic goddess, Lila Downs and Manu Chao lives Lhasa, who embodies a musical fusion of culture.
Dramatic and atmospheric, there's an otherworldly charm to The Living Road. Singing in Spanish, French and Portuguese, Lhasa becomes the transmitter of culture. Whereas Lila Downs does her mix of jazz with traditional Mexican music and is a more of an ethnographer, Lhasa's goal is not one specific geographic region, but rather on finding the connection between languages and sounds for a cohesive album.
Morocco is more of an influence than Canada on "Anywhere on This Road", a song in English evocative of the Middle East with its percussion, marimba and vibraphone. "Con Toda Palabra" is sparse and dramatic in its evocation of desire, while "Abro La Ventana" has a melancholy Cowboy Junkies feel to it, albeit sung in Spanish.
Rather than sounding like a problematic hodgepodge of influences, Lhasa moves from mariachi to bolero to experimental music with an uncanny ease. Without saying much she says a lot. "Pa' llegar a tu lado" is a compassionate, passionate love song accompanied by a soft piano. "La Confession", a sultry French jazz bolero about guilt, glides along the dance floor. One of the strongest songs on the collection is "La Frontera" a classic mariachi ranchera melody that's striking in its simplicity. "Small Song" has some Tom Waits-type "kloppity-klop" echoes. The stark and melodious "My Name" is one of the more haunting tracks on the album.
Along with angels, fire, water, and the open road, evocations of a high tide appear in her songs. Lhasa's music ebbs and flows, bringing in a current of emotion, only to be overcome by melancholic stillness.