Gina Chavez - up.rooted

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Gina Chavez
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It's an image that catches your attention - the macabre makeup worn by Gina Chavez on the cover of this, her second album. The duality of her Mexican/American heritage is a part of it, and the flora surrounding her eye is reflective of the title in some measure.

Chavez is based in Austin, an epicenter of musical creativity nowadays, and the creative, impressive music she makes delivers on the promise you'd assume from that striking cover shot. Up.rooted, she declares in the liner notes, is dedicated to those who have been, yes, uprooted. Chavez counts herself among them, at least in an artistic sense, since she was raised on music that was more Western pop than Latin. Her quest to get re-rooted included community service work in Argentina and El Salvador, and if the current state of her music is any indication, she's right where she belongs.

Her vocal style ranges from yearning to sensual to wailing with hardly a false moment to be heard, and the tunes on up.rooted take on cumbia, down tempo, swing, bossa nova, alternative rock and a good deal more, again without artifice and always with a suitably Latin vibe. The latter is achieved in large measure by Chavez's sprightly touch on acoustic guitar and charango, and the fact that her backup players include noted multi-instrumentalist Michael Ramos (he also did the producing and mixing) and the Grupo Fantasma horn section (who help make the opening “Save Me” a real grabber) doesn't hurt either.

While Chavez takes on such topics as poverty (“Like an Animal”) effectively, much of the disc is concerned with relationships, as on the wry “Gotta Get” and tender “The Sweet Sound of Your Name,” which has the makings of a pop hit, albeit with substance. The only song that doesn't make an impression is “Will You Love,” a rather mushy confection of the sort you'd expect from a lesser artist. The rest is quite refreshing and will put you in a mood to dance- fast or slow -while getting a good listen to Chavez's compelling vocals in both English and Spanish and the varied arrangements that serve them well. - Tom Orr


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