Given the experience of seeing Lila Downs y la Misteriosa in concert, it’s a wonder it took almost a decade for Anglos to hear her that way on record (thanks to World Village). This offering, recorded at Radio France’s FIP station, features her full international octet: Paul Cohen (her husband) on clarinet and saxophone; drummer Yayo Serka from Chile; Venezuelan guitarist Juancho Herrera; Paraguayan harpist, violinist, and charango player Celso Duarte; bassist Carlos Henderson from St. Louis; Colombian percussionist Samuel Torres; and New Yorkers Rob Curto on accordion and Dana Leong on trombone (the latter is also an accomplished cellist and producer). The essence of Downs' wondrously diverse, mind-blowing show is captured here in brilliant audio. Though she was touring in support of 2008’s Ojo de Culebra -- four of these tracks appeared there -- she performs music from six different albums reaching back to 1999's Sandunga. Whether it’s the conjunto/norteño-infused “El Relampago” or the Spanish-flavored dub of “La Linea” or “La Cumbia del Mole," the energy is the same: focused, spontaneous, and explosive. The lilting traditional ballad “La Llorna” is a standout, as is Chuy Rasgado's ranchera “Naila.” While Downs is a versatile vocalist and a true stylist as well as a dynamic performer, la Misteriosa cannot be overlooked for the sheer force and flow they provide in her live show; they are a sophisticated, forward-thinking ensemble of seasoned players who have been together for years, and now play instinctively with one another, adding an unmistakable dynamic. This one is all killer, no filler.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek