The inviting flavor of today’s Mexico

Lila Downs - Pecados y Milagros
Lila Downs

Pecados y Milagros (Sony Music Mexico, 2012)

Now would be a good time to mark your calendar, set up some alert on your computer and perhaps gird your loins because Sony Music Mexico is set to release Pecados y Milagros by the hypnotic songstress Lila Downs on January 2012. Teaming up with music collaborator, producer and husband Paul Cohen, Ms. Downs has laid down 14 tracks for Pecados y Milagros, or Sins and Miracles, that will dazzle even the most skeptical listener. With a handful of original songs composed with Mr. Cohen and a collection of Mexican classics by Marco Antonio Solis, Tomas Mendez and Cuco Sanchez, Pecados y Milagros boasts special guest artists like Celos Pina, Toto La Momposina and Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas.

If that weren’t enticement enough, Ms. Downs commissioned a series of Mexican devotional paintings to accompany the music. Adding a visual element to her music, Ms. Downs opened the project at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium in November and will follow up with a February and March 2012 tour of the U.S. The paintings will eventually make their way to an exhibit at the MUNAL, Mexico City’s fine arts museum on October 20th.

Dipping into the dazzling freshness of Pecados y Milagros, music fans are treated to the familiar vibrant soulfulness of Ms. Downs’s vocals against a backdrop flavored with cumbia, bachata, banda and delicious rancheras. From the evocative opening strains of Ms. Downs’s vocals on “Mezcalito” through to the richness of “Misa Oaxaquena,” Pecados y Milagros discovers the vast richness and delicate beauty of Mexico’s musical traditions. Fans are sure to fall for the poignant “Tu Carcel,” the exoticism of “Zapata Se Queda” with Celoso Pina and Toto la Momposina and the sheer loveliness of “Cucurrucucu Paloma.” Other gems include “Fallaste Corazon,” the fabulous “Xochipitzahua” and the deeply moving “Dios Nunca Muere.”

My personal favorite is the poignant beauty of “Cruz de Olvido.” With rich, ripe compositions, Pecados y Milagros pays tribute to Mexico’s folk traditions while it plumbs the depths of a sound that expresses the freshness and inviting flavor of found in today’s Mexico.

She explains, “Three years ago I started to compose verses that reflect the emotions I feel about what is happening in my country. but I really needed the sacred part of life, something spiritual to accompany me and give me strength, And I started thinking about songs that give me wings, songs that take me places.”

Pecados y Milagros is truly spectacular, but would we expect anything different from Ms. Downs? Fans get an extra special treat with the accompanying liner notes booklet filled with artwork for each track.

Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.


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