A chart-topping singer across Latin America, Natalia Lafourcade of Mexico took a step back and decided to follow a different musical path from the one that seemed to lie ahead of her. That path led her to a rustic house in the woods, where she began a partnership with an unlikely duo – Los Macorinos, a silver-hair duo of acoustic guitarists who had played with the iconic ranchera singer Chavela Vargas.
At the behest of Lafourcade, the assembled musicians created a deftly made homage to classic Latin American songs, with the resulting album, Musas, surprising fans, but garnering a Latin Grammy for best folk album. (As opposed to the Grammys and Latin Grammys she has won in the Rock and Alternative categories.)
Less than a year later, Lafourcade has released another set of vintage songs, adding in a few self-penned ones. Like the first, this is serene music that seems a world apart from the frenetic, high-volume landscape we find ourselves in. Still, Lafourcade crafts an album of varied textures and colors within her acoustic palette, featuring her lithe and versatile voice.
Lafourcade does justice to the beautiful sadness of the Chavela Vargas classic “La Llorona,” and opens the album with the liveliest tune on the album, the percussion-driven, mambo-swinging “Danza de Gardenias.” The first single is the wistful “Alma Mia,” composed by the groundbreaking Mexican female composer Maria Grever, while Lafourcade also pays tribute to another female songwriter, Margarita Lecuona, with “Eclipse,” a Cuban bolera with a bossa nova feel (and which was once covered by Joao Gilberto).
A few songs echo the first album: Lafourcade sings again with the Buena Vista octogenarian Omara Portuondo even adding another voice, that of long-time Mexican cabaret singer Eugenia Leon. On Musas 2, the women sing a livelier tune, “Desdenosa.” Repeating another highlight from the first Musas, this one ends fittingly with a gorgeous instrumental duet by Los Macorinos.
Though created, in part, to remind young listeners of the wonderful legacy of Latin popular music that has been overlooked, Musas 2 stands on its own as a testament to the talent of Lafourcade, who at 34 still looks to have a long, bright career ahead of her. - Marty Lipp