Lila Downs' dramatic debut album, Tree of Life, released last year by Narada, drew heavily on her exotic Mixtec Indian background, delivering a profoundly moving performance that immediately thrust he

Lila Downs' dramatic debut album, Tree of Life, released last year by Narada, drew heavily on her exotic Mixtec Indian background, delivering a profoundly moving performance that immediately thrust her into the world music spotlight. With Border, she has wasted no time taking her repertoire to another level. She does two songs in English—"Pastures of Plenty"/"This Land Is Your Land" and "Smoke." The latter is very much in the populist folk tradition, as is "Pastures." "This Land," though, comes from a jazzy rock idea and actually flashes hip-hop at a couple points. Downs pulls off a very torchy bit of Latin pop with "Perhaps Perhaps" that would make for a nice rhumba on the dancefloor, and she shows an adroit command of the cumbia style on several tracks, including "Cumbia Maya"/"Hannal Wech." Downs opens up a wider range of Latin influences on Border, and it works for her, because her interpretive skill is sublime, and her voice is a world-class instrument.—PVV

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