Gospel, soul & acoustic sounds from singer's roots revive a set of traditional holiday songs.
As quietly as making angels in the snow, the soulful Guatemalan singer Gaby Moreno has gone and recorded a praise-worthy Christmas album that could well become a Latin holiday classic.
On Posada, released in the U.S. on indie label Cosmica, Moreno blends her love of gospel, soul and piano jazz with acoustic sounds from her Central American roots to revive a set of traditional holiday songs.
Moreno digs into standard Spanish-language hymns with fervor, delivering a hallelujah-worthy "El Niño del Tambor" and bringing a little naughty to "Peces en el Rio" in a revved-up cabaret version of the children's Christmas classic. On an album that includes English and German-language lyrics, the singer seduces with a retro "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" set to brushed drums. Moreno and her band add some honky tonk to "Go Tell It on the Mountain."
A video for Moreno's spare and emotive "Primer Noel," premiering here on Billboard.com, features the artist reliving childhood holiday memories. Unlike the album, which is notable for Moreno's decidedly non-secular approach to holiday music, the video brings some typical Christmas commercialism to her message with a bottle of Pepsi placed prominently on her piano. Moreno recently appeared at a Pepsi holiday concert and in a commercial for the beverage's holiday campaign in Guatemala.
Moreno has a hip bilingual following in her adopted home city of Los Angeles, and she is most widely known to Spanish-speakers for her 2011 duet with Ricardo Arjona, "Fuiste Tu." That track has neared 165 million views on YouTube, and it rose to #1 on Billboard's Latin Pop Airplay and Tropical Airplay charts. Moreno parlayed that connection into a well-received Latin American tour for her 2012 album "Postales," released on Arjona's label Metamorfosis, which also produced her Christmas record. Despite being named Best New Artist at the 2013 Latin Grammys, the wide-ranged singer still remains underappreciated in the U.S. Latin market. "Postales" sold 3,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen Soundscan.
This Christmas, Posada should turn out to be a gift for Moreno's career as well as for holiday music listeners.