Out today is Lance Canales & the Flood’s new album The Blessing and the Curse (Music Road Records), a true blues-Americana-folk masterpiece. As mentioned in the Latino Rebels interview early in the week, Canales draws from his personal life and his Latino upbringing for inspiration. His lyrics are politically charged and poignant. Canales speaks for the migrant workers of central San Joaquin Valley, his melodic growls and heavy work-boot stomps transporting the listener to the sun-scorched imagery of migrant workers bent over in some unforgiving field.
The tracklist is an autobiographical manifesto —a folk opera of sorts— describing how one’s life could easily be either a blessing or a curse and is oftentimes both. The mood is set from the first song “California or Bust,” an upbeat, stomping hymn that celebrates Canales homeland in California’s Central Valley. Our protagonist follows his set-up with two self-deprecating songs, “Hich-Wyah Man” and “Cold Dark Hole,” in which he exclaims the lament: “Oh Lord! Oh Lord! I’ve been down.” With “The Farmer” he raises his glass to all those men and women, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers who work until they “bury their bones,” honoring his own father and grandfather. “Weary Feet Blues” walks us through the harsh landscape of the desert and has us “begging for mercy from the burning sun.”
The latest hit “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” which premieres exclusively on Latino Rebels today, settles the request for clemency: “sun got no mercy in this land.” This epic anthem features a wonderful female gospel voice chanting the same agony, as death slowly but surely arrives.
“Old Red” is “rolling down the line,” as if death weren’t the end. That’s confirmed emphatically with the remake of “Plane Crash at Los Gatos: Deportee,” written by Woody Guthrie in 1948, which reveals the names of the Mexican casualties whom were simply referred to as “deportees” at the time. “Deportee” becomes an activist’s battle hymn for migrant workers who “die in your desert.” “Pearl Handled Gun” storyline exclaims “no justice for a brown man,” after a Latino goes to World War II to fight for his country, only to return home and still be treated as second-class citizen in the same country he so proudly and bravely defended.
In “Special Made” the main character counts his blessings, standing up for himself and declaring “I’m gonna show you what I can do.” “Fruit Basket” incorporates mocking, agonizing growls—a constant reminder of the struggles of farm laborers. With “Sing No More” our champion gives up his howls and cries, deciding to “write a song and cry no more, because his heart is aching now and can’t take it no more.” The big upbeat finale is “Stomp It Out,” bringing in a call-and-response choir that marches in guerrilla spirit.
This album is the one of the biggest breakthroughs of the year and the most compelling I’ve heard in a long time. It’s clearly Canales best work yet, as we see him unifying the thread between the Latino community and folk-blues music.
And to that end, Lance Canales is no curse and all blessing.
Lance Canales & the Flood are a roots-blues influenced Americana trio from California’s breadbasket, where Canales lived the life that so many songs have been written about since the birth of roots music, hard labor, one room shacks and taunting ghosts whispering of a better life. Canales’ guttural vocals combine a hard-edged storytelling approach beneath a stripped down, foot-stomping, acoustic instrumentation. The Flood are made up of stand up bassist, Jake (Cobra) Finny and American Roots drummer (DB) Daniel Burt. Burt keeps the rhythm along with the crowd, as Canales, described on the blog ”Bound for Glory” by music Journalist, Robin Wheeler, ”plays hollow-bodied, anger-fueled blues guitar. He growls and stomps with his feet clad in the heavy work boots of his grandfather.