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Lila Downs

Pecados y Milagros (Sony)

Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., March 16, 2012

SXSW 2012 Records

Lila Downs

Pecados y Milagros (Sony)

Björk's 2011 iPad album Biophilia could have used some of Lila Downs' mixed-media soul. Commissioning 15 retablos, Mexican home-altar-type paintings, to interpret the album's 14 tracks, Pecados y Milagros – Sins and Miracles – the veteran Oaxaca, Mexico, singer and song stylist bares an inebriating Latin romance cribbed from a cantina mural. Shots are banging off sheet metal tables from the first track, "Mezcalito," huffing with a percussive whoop of brass and bajo (bass). Followed by a trip to "Tu Cárcel" (Your Prison), a sighing torch ballad with tears plucked by both strings and a wringing vocal, Downs' buoyant Sony debut ferments between love and death, the latter in the person of "La Reyna del Inframundo" (Queen of the Underworld), a donkey hop of accordion and mariachi detailing. Third track "Zapata Se Queda" (Zapata Stays), a 70-proof Caribbean swivel with cumbia master Celso Piña and Colombian singer Totó la Momposina, keeps the hits coming. Delicious dove calls ("Cucurrucucú") and the Marley-esque guitar solo on a Downs original, "Palomo del Comalito," mirror the disc's nearly 50/50 split between the singer and her husband Paul Cohen's jukebox originals and more traditional fare. Better still, Downs and Cohen hold their own on the dog-race tempo "Pecadora" (Sinner) aided by Argentine funk duo Illya Kuryaki & the Valderramas. Modern and disturbing, the "Pecadora" retablo doubles the beat. Pecados y Milagros: On second thought, better call in Julie Taymor.

(Wed., 10pm, Speakeasy; Thu., 9:30pm, St. David's Bethell Hall)

****

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