Lila Downs's sophomore U.S. release sees her take a much more folkloric tack than her debut, delving into the mystical codices of the Mexican Mixtec natives (her ancestry on her mother's side)--not that the entire album is... more » made up of ancestral songs. There's also "Nueve Viento," a bolero son as rich and satisfying as anything to come out of Buena Vista Social Club. But the heart of this album beats strongest when it's barest, making the stark "Yunu Yucu Ninu" (which she performed differently on her debut) into an eerie delight. Blessed with a remarkable voice, operatic training, and jazz chops, Downs can cover a lot of territory. "Tres Pedernal" recalls the husky Tropicalia of Gal Costa. With its look at native culture and lore, this is a record that delves much deeper than Mexican pop, marking Downs as a serious singer of talent and depth. --Chris Nickson« less
Lila Downs's sophomore U.S. release sees her take a much more folkloric tack than her debut, delving into the mystical codices of the Mexican Mixtec natives (her ancestry on her mother's side)--not that the entire album is made up of ancestral songs. There's also "Nueve Viento," a bolero son as rich and satisfying as anything to come out of Buena Vista Social Club. But the heart of this album beats strongest when it's barest, making the stark "Yunu Yucu Ninu" (which she performed differently on her debut) into an eerie delight. Blessed with a remarkable voice, operatic training, and jazz chops, Downs can cover a lot of territory. "Tres Pedernal" recalls the husky Tropicalia of Gal Costa. With its look at native culture and lore, this is a record that delves much deeper than Mexican pop, marking Downs as a serious singer of talent and depth. --Chris Nickson
Enrique Torres | San Diegotitlan, Califas | 02/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like a mystical Mexican goddess beckoning me I picked this CD up by instinct as I was drawn to it. Was it Frida Kahlo reincarnated or the ancient ones calling? Who knows, I'm just glad I bought it. I was very pleasantly surprised to learn about this marvelous artist, Lila Downs, a Mexican diva with roots and upbringing on both sides of the Rio Grande. Her musical sensibilities come from formal opera training and an education in the US as she was born to a Oaxacan mother and a father from the United States. Lila Downs is unquestionably one of the artists to watch as she matures. This her sophmore effort is a masterpiece, shrouded in mysticism from ancient codices, Lila delivers interpretations that are exquisite manifestations of her being. Her voice trainng has allowed her to sing with unlimited range and depth, a true diva. Her music is contemporary folkloric songs that are performed in various indigenous languages of Mexico that touch a deep cord in one's soul. To listen to her sing in any language is delightful but the when she does in Mixtec it is something very special, ethereal, otherworldly, a communique from her ancestors, poetry from long gone souls for the living to learn from. Don't believe me? Take a listen to the sampler version of "Yunu Yuca Ninu" and listen to Lila speak softly to your soul. She wrote the music for this song about the immigrants who leave Oaxaca every year, some to never return, based on a poem. She performed this song on her first US release also but differently. Listening to this CD borders on a mystical experience, it is undefineable, something that can only be experienced. It is as though it is not neccessary to read the booklet that has all the translations, the music speaks in words that connect straight to your soul.I suppose the lyrics will further illustrate the concepts, I just haven't bothered yet. Lila Downs, the Mexican diva deliveres her message eloquently with jazzy backgrounds that includes melodic harmonica, guitar, harp, flute, marimba, sax and soft percussion that includes clay pots and drums that do not distract but further accentuates her marvelous voice. Her range fluctuates to the point where it is hard to believe it is the same singer. That one person can do so many things with their voice is a marvel, and to be able to annunciate in so many different languages is something very special. She takes on a husky voice in the opening Zapotec song, "Simuna" but slightly transforms her voice halfway through giving hints of her operatic talents. On "Nuevo Viento" she further displays her capabilities as she opens up further displaying talents that don't come along very often. "Arenita Azul" is the only song that has a Caribbean feel to it, she sounds like a young Celia Cruz. "La Iguana" is a happy huapango that illustrates the things Lila can do with her voice as she assumes one of her many different sounds. She is magical. About as far away from pop as you can get this CD fits into the "World music" category, charting an unwritten path. Her talent is extraordinary, she composed seven of the tracks and of course sings in four languages. The accopanying booklet is a prize as there are all the lyrics written in original language, English and Spanish. Mixtec images from various codex's were borrowed and are colorfully reproduced. This from my perspective should especially appeal to those who like anthropolgy as Lila's music is delves deep into her Mixteca roots. Lila had descended from the clouds in the mountains of Oaxaca to share her ethnic vision that comes from the duality of her being. Lila Downs is a Mexican diva for the new millennium, she is very special, she speaks directly to one's soul, from deep within her heart she touches you. Buy this CD for an experience that comes from the ancient codices of Mexico."
Exotic and intense musical experience
V. S. Sheridan | Coronado, CA United States | 08/07/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this album on the recommendation of Amazon readers. It turned out to be much more than I had hoped. Ms. Downs is willing and able to do more with her voice than I have heard from almost any singer anywhere. Her voice is not operatic but she has a HUGE range, and she uses it to invoke moods to match the songs she sings. The expressiveness of this album is so intense that it is impossible (or perhaps shameful) to use it as background music. In addition to songs in Spanish, Ms. Downs sings a number of songs written in Mixtec, Zapotec and Nahuatl languages. Some of them express their cosmology; others are about living life as a person with troubles. All are beautiful, under the sure and elegant hand of this amazing lady of music."
Back to roots
J. Marquez | Los Angeles, CA | 07/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To the anonymous music fan from Seattle....shame on you. You have no idea what traditional Mexican music is...you must be one of those people that think burritos & "combinations" are traditional Mexican cuisine and that waltzes performed by misguided sell out mariachi bands are traditional Mexican music. Just as there is infinitely more to Mexican cuisine than is available in the U.S., consciousness about Mexican music is very superficial. Are southern gospel tunes or appalachian jigs any less American than Glenn Miller or Elvis Presley just because they were never discovered by mainstream audiences? While it is true that Lila fuses foreign influences with indigenous doesn't invalidate it...because Mexico's essence is one of mestizaje (fusion...racial, idiomatic, visual, and musical)."
The Jazzier side of Lila
WorldDiscoveries.Net | Petaluma, California | 11/18/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"TREE OF LIFE is quieter all around: Downs' songs present more of her jazzy side, tend towards less passionate riffs and displays, yet are smoothly evocative of her Mexican roots and heritage. This isn't to say there's no spirit here: 'Nuevo Viento', for example, adopts a near-flamenco guitar style and exhibits the force of Downs' vocal trills. "
The folksy folks
A music fan | Teaneck, NJ | 05/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is Lila's most folksy album ever. And also one of her most beautiful, intense and probably long lasting ones. This music will be still as great as it is today, in, say, twenty years from now.
Do not miss this one. The music speaks for itself, not that I can add much more. "