LHASA The Living Road (Audiogram) Rating: NNNN
After hitting it big a few years back with one of the most peculiar debut records possible - her mournful collection of Mexican torch ballads La Llorona - U.S.-born, Mexico-raised, Montreal-based crooner Lhasa DeSela simply vanished. No follow-up, no endless touring, nothing. It turns out she'd moved to France and joined the circus (of course). While some quality time swinging on the trapeze hasn't lightened her mood any, it has broadened her scope. The Living Road builds on the Gypsy jazz cabaret of her debut, with nods to Turkish and North African music as well as clanking, Tom Waits-inspired junkyard percussion. The focus, inevitably, is Lhasa's husky voice, and the pace is funereal, but with the range of sounds widened, there's a swing, however dark, to tracks like Anywhere On This Road and the staggering Small Song that she didn't manage the first time around. Highwire stuff indeed.