The Living Road
(Nettwerk, 2004)

Lhasa de Sela was born in Big Indian, New York, and took to the road very early with her parents. Traveling in an old converted school bus, they voyaged from the United States to Mexico and back. Two decades later, Lhasa sings of these experiences on The Living Road.

The lack of much information about Lhasa makes it difficult to know what to expect, but I loved her music from the first listen. The album features a striking mixture of Spanish, English and French songs. The five Spanish songs are all rooted in the Mexican tradition. "Con toda la palabra" is strong and anthemic, with the beautiful arrangement and Lhasa's soaring voice pairing for a perfect album opener. She follows this with two ballads, a Mexican waltz and another anthemic rocker.

When Lhasa shifts to a different language, the road brings her to another land. The four English-language tracks are a bit reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane -- more or less rhythmic, psychedelic rock. "Anywhere on This Road" sounds a bit like a Nico and the Velvet Underground title, and a psychedelic blues cut and two terrific soft-rock numbers round out the English section.

The musical journey then leads us over the ocean and we land on French soil, where we dive into the realm of French chansons. "La Maree Haute" stands out, with a haunting quality that makes you shiver. Another French waltz and a chanson in Rumba time complete our travel.

Lhasa's powerful voice conveys a wealth of feeling and passion, and the instrumentation shows a strong Mexican influence, with trumpet and guitar featured prominently. Percussion, violin and keyboards also play important roles. However, the absence of liner notes in this advance release makes it diffcult to giving the backing musicians the credit they richly deserve.

Lhasa may be little known to a wide audience, but her refreshing melange of musical styles sets her apart from the mass of singers we are confronted with today.

- Rambles
written by Adolf Goriup
published 30 October 2004

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