I didn’t know much about Lila Downs before we interviewed her. I had heard her name once or twice from friends who know her music. But when I thought we might have the chance to talk to her – a passionate female singer born in Mexico and raised in “El Norte,” as they say – I had to know more. She has such an incredible throaty, bluesy voice, there has to be an interesting back story – and yes, there is. Her mother is Mixtec Indian from Oaxaca and her father is Scottish-American from Minnesota. She was a Deadhead after college. She worked in her mother’s carburetor shop in Mexico. And she started to write songs after translating stories from the death certificates of locals who had tried to emigrate to the United States. Even if she weren’t a singer, she’s got what it takes to be an incredible spokesperson for Mexican-Americans – someone who can bridge the two countries with beauty and grace at a time when there is so much negative sentiment on both sides of the immigration issue. Needless to say, I’m a big fan now, addicted to her smoky voice, earthy spirituality, and vivid lyrics.
Her new CD is called “Shake Away.” She’s also on tour. You can find information about both from her web site.
Meanwhile, I’ll be tracking down her old CDs for my own personal collection.