When Hollywood makes the movie based on the life of American/Canadian singer-songwriter Lhasa, it won’t be able to invent anything stranger than reality. Born to nomadic parents who moved at whim across America while serenading their children with their collection of Arab, Asian, Spanish, Gypsy, and Mexican music; enjoyed a stint in SF singing Billie Holliday songs a cappella in a Greek cafe; spent years in Montreal with guitarist and producer Yves Desrosiers, developing the Spanish/Gypsy hybrid that made her first album, La Llorona, a worldwide sensation; ditching the music biz to join a circus in Bourgogne, France, with her three sisters; and finally returning to Montreal to cut Open Road.
Like La Llorona, this record boasts a fully realized musical vision that touches on the pop and folkloric music of Latin American, Europe, and Romany without ever sounding forced or inauthentic: Call it world music cabaret for morose intellectuals. Lhasa has a smoky, dusty alto full of understated passion, in addition to a knack for crafting simple yet powerfully poetic lyrics and a gift for measured, moody melodies full of longing and heartache. The backing tracks amplify Open Road‘s dark tone with subtle touches — the melancholy trumpet on “La Fronteria,” the skeletal marimba on the smoky tango “J’Arrive à la Ville,” the clanking Tom Waits-ish percussion on the almost-a-cappella “Small Song,” the folkloric drum ‘n’ bass rhythms on the fatalistic ballad “Para el Fin del Mundo o el Año Nuevo.” On Open Road, Lhasa gives us another strong collection of unique, wrenching songs that manage to uncover a shimmering spark of hope, even in the darkest regions of the human heart.