Lhasa

The Living Road

Globe-trotting singer/songwriter Lhasa de Sela's long-awaited second album (following 1998's ear-opening La Llorona) is breathtaking in its melodic beauty, which draws on the poetic power of no fewer than three languages: Spanish, French, and English. Yet despite its polyglot sophistication, Lhasa's songcraft is accessible (à la Norah Jones' and Cassandra Wilson's). Her tunes are spare in instrumentation, often relying on bare-bones percussion, piano, and string arrangements that place her liquid-honey vocals at the fore. Tracks like "My Name" and "Soon This Space Will Be Too Small" are indeed simple, yet they're far from simple-minded. The sensual pathos of the singer's phrasing recalls the haunting intimacy of Billie Holiday's and the lyrics carry a weight that reflects Lhasa's Gypsy lifestyle, which marries the melancholy of rootlessness with a passion for multiculturalism.

 
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