Music News

Ely Guerra

You think rock is a man's world? Tell it to Ely Guerra.

Mexico's most neglected rockera, Guerra bounced back last year from years of obscurity brought on by label mismanagement with a showstopping acoustic performance at the 2001 Latin Alternative Music Conference last summer in New York, followed by a solid intimate affair at Hollywood's Knitting Factory and a chilling collaboration on La Ley's MTV Unplugged -- not surprisingly, the best part of that album.

Guerra now follows that run with Lotofire, her third and best recording. When it was originally released in Latin America by EMI Mexico in 1999, the album made the label execs flip in horror -- though at EMI, that's a good sign. While a recent changing of the guard at the historically lousy-for-rocanrol EMI Latin is already resulting in signs of improvement, the change came too late for the singer. Now, almost three years after the album's original release, Lotofire finally comes out in the United States with a new (and unnecessary) opening track, especially composed for and included in the Amores Perros soundtrack.

Guerra's music is misleading. On the first few tracks, the neat, relaxed atmosphere makes it sound as if the album is another "intimate" affair, suitable for those not into loud, in-your-face attacks. But Guerra calls Lotofire (produced by Andrés Levin, who quietly has become one of the most sought-after Latin rock producers) her "color" album, and she does have all the colors. Her right hand is both an acoustic spiritual journey and an electric waterfall, and her voice is at once hypnotic and chillingly powerful, convincing both when she whispers (the lotus flowers) and when she screams her heart out (the fire). With guest help from legendary Brazilian producer Arto Lindsay, guitarist Marc Ribot and drummer Larry Mullins, Lotofire starts slow but inevitably grows into one of those special CDs that come to your rescue whenever you have the need for something that's entirely real -- but sounds like magic.

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Enrique Lopetegui