On her seventh album, Natalia Lafourcade deepens her romance with the classics of Latin American song, particularly the sounds and voices of her native Mexico’s golden era. The affair began in 2012, when the folk/pop singer-songwriter released Mujer Divina, a collection of her interpretations of songs by the famed Mexican singer and composer of boleros Agustín Lara. She doubled down in 2015 with the critically acclaimed, Latin GRAMMY sweeping, Hasta la Raíz, which took musical cues from legends such as Lara and Chilean singer-songwriter Violeta Parra. Written after a breakup, that album was about looking to her roots as a means of returning to herself in order to begin the process of renewal. The subtext, made clear on the song “No Más Llorar” (“No More Crying”), is that she wished this same healing for her often troubled country as well.
As its title suggests, Musas, the follow up to Hasta la Raíz, is dedicated to the musicians and artists who have been inspiring Lafourcade through this period of her career and has much the same subtext as its predecessor. It includes songs by Lara, Parra and Venezuelan songwriter Simón Díaz, all of whom have passed on, some quite recently. Like Hasta, Musas is masterfully produced, and features exquisite performances. The album was recorded with the guitar duo Los Macorinos, now in their eighties, who frequently collaborated with beloved ranchera singer Chavela Vargas, who died in 2012.
The album also includes songs written or co-written by Lafourcade, and they stand up remarkably well beside the work of Latin America’s all-time greats. In fact, two tracks she wrote alone are the clear standouts: the achingly sweet opener “Tu Si Sabes Quererme,” and the enchanting “Rocio de Todos Los Campos,” which has for its muse Lafourcade’s friend, Mexican actress and dancer Rocío Sagaón who passed away in 2015.
It’s no coincidence that the album’s muses are artists of an earlier generation who are now gone. As soothing to the ear as its acoustic arrangements are, Musas has an urgency of purpose about it. Lafourcade sifts the language of these enduring songs, made before she was born, like an archaeologist sifting for bone fragments. She is driven to celebrate this music, but also to learn from it, before it slips too far into the past.