When: Sat., March 3, 7 p.m. 2012
For a few albums now, Mexican-American singer Lila Downs has been trying to cross over, but I've found her use of jazz, pop, and R&B elements too fussy. The new Pecados y Milagros (her first record for Sony Music Latin) is equally commercial in its sound, but this time she's drawn only on pop from south of the border, avoiding clumsy cross-cultural collisions. The album includes six tunes written by Downs and her husband and collaborator Paul Cohen, alongside eight imaginative interpretations of classics by important Mexican singers and songwriters from the past century. Downs augmented the Spanish-language lyrics by commissioning artists to create retablos (devotional paintings) for each song, which suggest deep entanglements between love and religion. Musically she travels all over Central and South America, complementing Mexican boleros, rancheros, and bandas with glossy Dominican bachata and jacked-up cumbia (on "Zapata Se Queda," which features cameos by Mexican accordionist Celso Piña and Colombian singer Toto la Momposina). Most important, Downs has a voice that can navigate every twist and turn with total authority and full-bodied soul. —Peter Margasak Sones de Mexico Ensemble opens, and the work of local Mexican artists will be on display.