I have been listening to the new album, Buena Ventura, by the Latin Grammy winning band La Santa Cecelia since it was first sent to me a month ago. LSC is a hometown LA band and I wanted to hear them do the songs live before writing about them. LSC is more than a band, it is a community and an inspiration and a performance delight; seeing them live gives wider context to the recording.
I saw LSC live last week at the 2200-seat Walt Disney Hall in concert. That performance confirmed everything I heard in the recording; La Marisoul (aka Marisol Hernandez) and the entire band have matured and notched up the talent level while holding tight to the core joy and energy that brought them from busking 8 years ago to debuting at #1 on iTunes Latin albums last month.
Each of the ten songs on the bilingual album is crafted with precision gained not only from hard work in the studio but from the experience of touring constantly over the past two years in the US, Latin America and Europe. The result is a masterpiece of American Latin Music (dubbed “Pan American Music” by Marisoul) and one that will likely bring them another shelf full of awards. Produced by the five-time Grammy and ten-time Latin Grammy winner Argentine-born Sebstian Krys, Buenaventura sparkles and glitters and dances in your speakers. If you listen on headphones, use a long cord so you can dance.
In addition to your dance, musicians lead the way: accordion and requinto player José “Pepe” Carlos, percussionist Miguel “Oso” Ramírez, bassist Alex Bendana and, of course, the ever colorful lead singer La Marisoul. Joining them on some songs are guest artists Steve Berlin and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and pedal steel guitarist Bob Bernstein. The combination not only perfects the music, but the message that has propelled LSC and their fans in clubs, dance halls, major venues, and festivals across the world.
The album kicks off with horns and sharp percussion on “Sacude La Prereza,” with La Marisoul’s voice at its gentlest and most feminine, and then segues into the accordion-led dance-beat “ I Won’t Cry For You.” This is where you begin to sense how much Marisoul and the band has matured musically in both her baby-skin smooth delivery and the band’s ability to seamlessly blend pop rock and Latin forms into music that is truly Pan American in sound as well as language.
“Nunca Más” – the second single released from the album, bounces with cumbia energy while it rolls out a message of solidarity and community in a world often filled with hate. “Nunca Más” will join their earlier “El Hielo” as an anthem of immigration acceptance and reform.
LSC slows things down in the waltz/nortenó love song “Here We Go Again,” introduced by a church organ that sets up Carlos’s accordion. Although in English, “Here We Go Again” swings and sways in a musical recreation of the tented dance floors strung with Christmas lights that dot weekends in the Central Valley. We could still be in the tent as they move on to “Tragos De Amargo Lico,” with the accordion and Marisoul’s voice interweaving in a call and response and a harmony with guest singer Enrique Bunberry. The effect is both mesmerizing and cinematic.
From the opening cumbia-reggae “Sacude La Pereza” to the final dance tune, “Secede.” Marisoul’s voice is confident with a new level of range and control matched by the band’s top-of-their-game tight rhythms drawn from rock, bossa nova, cumbia, blues, pop and Caribbean. They were a delight to see live and are a joy to listen to recorded. Buenaventura is La Santa Cecelia’s fifth album and like each previous record it adds another layer of sophistication, message and the sheer joy. Grammy to follow.
Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, Music FridayLive!
Buenaventura by La Santa Cecelia
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