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.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek