Lila Downs

Shake Away (Manhattan)

Phases and Stages

Lila Downs

Shake Away (Manhattan)

The start of an album should be like a first kiss, seductive, full of anticipation. Unfortunately, the first four songs on Lila Downs' latest are so surprisingly ordinary and cacophonous you might have to double-check that you are, indeed, listening to the otherwise divine Ms. Downs. The Mexican-American world music maven is a skilled border crosser, fusing the traditional with the contemporary to make it new as on 2006's sublime La Cantina. There's always something to be said for overdoing it, however. The most satisfying tunes on Shake Away are those featuring Downs unvarnished, singing in her lower register. "Yo Envidio el Viento," "Tierra de Luz," and the tender "I Would Never" make you forget the previous, often jarring cuts. Whoever advised Downs to aim for those stratospheric Minnie Riperton notes should be sacked. True fans will comb through the rubble to find the diamonds. Newcomers may not be as patient.

**

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