Hard travelin’ too

Lhasa sings songs of the open road and free spirit

Keri Carlson

Lhasa’s voice is distant. Her vocals carry a cool airiness like a smooth, cigarette-smoking jazz-club singer. It makes her seem somehow detached and far away.

The alterna-folk artist’s voice never becomes too over the top nor wimpy but remains wishful and longing. It’s as if she sings while looking out the window – which fits the restless theme of Lhasa’s second album, “The Living Road.”

Lhasa switches languages after every song – from Spanish to French to English; it’s evidence of her nomadic lifestyle. Lhasa spent her childhood traveling with her family between the United States and Mexico on an old school bus. Since then, Lhasa has hardly stopped moving, which is why she makes the road her living room.

Though Lhasa’s voice always sounds yearning and searching, she never seems out of place.

“The Living Road” not only combines languages but world music as well. Lhasa dips and dabbles in everything from gypsy, cabaret and Mexican ranchera to more-modern ambient tones and beats. Imagine a more world-weary female Tom Waits.

While other artists who have attempted to combine world elements wind up with a directionless mess, Lhasa always sounds natural and comfortable.

“Anywhere On This Road” sums up the album’s raison

d’etre as Lhasa coos, “You’ve traveled this long/ You just have to go on/ Don’t even look back to see/ How far you’ve come.”

Lhasa might not have a conventional place to call home, but that’s because she’s only comfortable roaming.