With a voice of focused intensity and pure tone, a rootsy folk-rock vibe and a Latin-Southwest sensibility, bilingual singer-songwriter Lara Manzanares’ debut original album, “Land Baby,” weaves a tapestry of geographical, emotional and cultural landscapes, describing stories of passion and comedy that cut to the heart – and motivate your soul to move.
You will have an opportunity to hear songs from the record at a special concert Sunday (Dec. 10), 5-7 p.m., at the studios of Cultural Energy, KCEI 90.1 FM, at 112 Civic Plaza Drive in Taos.
With 12 songs in “Land Baby,” Manzanares conveys a richness in English and Spanish that delves deeply into the heart of New Mexico’s land and people.
“Land Baby” is about movement, Manzanares states, not only physical and geographical movement, but also emotional and cultural. She says she was “raised on a ruggedly beautiful but isolated sheep ranch in Northern New Mexico, with my parents’ 1960s and ‘70s folk and rock record collection to keep me company. I grew up hearing both English and Spanish and speaking Spanglish. The stories, customs, and traditions of my childhood were rooted in the distinct culture of Northern New Mexico: A deeply complex mixture of Old-World Spanish, Mexican, Native American and Anglo-American ways of being, all held together by a deep connection to the land.”
When her family wasn’t hiking across the mountains behind the sheep, they were in their livingroom having rock ’n’ roll dance parties led by her dad, a press release states. “The Doors, The Beatles, The Supremes, Simon and Garfunkel, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash and more melded with local Spanish polkas and chotizes played on the piano by my great-grandfather, the classic country and bluegrass fiddle tunes of my grandmother, and the Garth Brooks-era country and Mexican rancheras and corridos that wafted over the local radio waves,” she said in the release. “The haunting and mournful alabados of the Catholic penitentes at our local religious ceremonies provided a deeply beautiful and melancholic undertone to the wild, pulsing freedom of the landscape; and the beats of our neighbors in the Pueblos and on the Navajo and Apache reservations permeated the oftentimes dusty air.”
Manzanares said she left New Mexico at age 18 and headed out into the world. “I spent my 20s in transit: Appleton, Wisconsin; Washington D.C.; Granada, Spain; Milwaukee; Chicago; and, finally, six years in San Francisco. I did all the things you’re supposed to do in your 20s. I lived, loved, learned, made music and danced my socks off. I met amazing and interesting people, began and ended relationships, and forged strong friendships. Family secrets were revealed and dynamics shifted. I learned about new cultures and fell in love with new music. I sang Mexican rancheras on the streets. People asked me about my cultural background and those who were unfamiliar with the history of New Mexico were oftentimes confused by my answer. I got knocked down a few times but always found a way back up through my music.”
In speaking about the underlying themes in her music, she adds, “This movement – across land, across time, across cultures and languages, and through emotional space – is what this album is about. People still ask questions about my cultural identity. I try to explain it with words, but my answer never stays completely still — and so I sing it instead. I’m a land baby, desert baby, cactus-eatin’ sand lady, a land baby, desert baby, cactus-eatin’ sand lady!”
The concert is free, but seating is limited. Reservations can be made by calling Cultural Energy at (575) 758-9791. For more information on the artist, visit laramanzanares.com.