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Arts & Culture

Review: Carrie Rodriguez, 'Lola'

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still at the bottom of the page.

Carrie Rodriguez, <em>Lola </em>
/ Courtesy of the artist
Carrie Rodriguez, <em>Lola </em>

In my mind, there's a magical Mexican restaurant located somewhere in Austin, Texas; it's a place where people of all cultures, backgrounds, ages and languages rub elbows over mouthwatering Tex-Mex combination plates. Aging hippies, Chicano hipsters, old-school Texans in cowboy hats, abuelitas, blues musicians, Western fiddlers — they're all there.

It's an image I've imagined ever since I first heard music that combines influences across cultures, like Americana accented with conjunto or a blues-rock trio singing in Spanish. But I'd never heard the exact sounds that I'd imagined playing in a jukebox in that made-up restaurant until I heard Lola, the new album by Carrie Rodriguez.

The self-proclaimed " half-gringa, half-Chicana fiddle[r]" has made an album that combines seemingly disparate influences into one gloriously cohesive Spanglish statement. Lola's cross-cultural references turn a song about iconic ranchera vocalists Lola Beltran and Javier Solis into a tender expression of endless love, sung in English. Elsewhere, a song about this country's immigration policies is set to a loping cowboy shuffle. The seemingly improbable cultural mashups are a perfect expression of reality for many folks in Texas and beyond.

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