With her soulfully rich vocals and melodic guitar playing, Lourdes Perez has quickly risen to the upper echelon of Puerto Rican-American music. The recipient of the Songwriter of the Year bestowed by the Clarksville Jazz Poll in 1996, Perez continues to garner acclaim for her emotional performances. The Vancouver Courier described her as having a "honey-coated contralto that transcends language, lending an unwavering authenticity to her music reminiscent of legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf," while the New York Times praised her for "using her gutsy declamation to reminisce over lost love and to praise women's power to nurture life." The Austin American Statesman wrote that with her "smoky, spiraling alto -- like Edith Piaf fronting the Gypsy Kings -- Perez sings of her people with a supreme sense of humanity that enlarges them to signify all people.
Teaching herself to sing and play the guitar at the age of 11, Perez was initially inspired by nueve cancion singer/songwriters including Sylvio Rodriguez, Atahualpa Yupangui, and Violete Parra. Leaving Puerto Rico in 1983, Perez settled in Austin, TX, five years later. Despite her love of music and obvious talents, she did not pursue a career as a musician until 1993. Within six months, she had become one of Austin's most promising young performers. Nominated in the Best World Music category of the Austin Chronicle Music Awards, she placed second in the Best New Act in the Music City Texas poll.
A self-titled, five-song EP, released in 1993, included the original tune "Si Me Muero Manana," which received an award as Best Foreign Language Song in the Austin Songwriters Group Competition. Perez's debut album, Recuerdate Por Mi, which followed in the spring of 1994, was voted the number one independent album in the Music City Texas Poll and took fifth place in the Austin Chronicle's Critics' Poll. Perez released a 20-minute-long cassette, Homenaje a Mercedes Sosa, featuring her interpretations of songs by the Argentinean songwriter. Her second full-length album, Vestigos, was released in 1997.
Perez's earliest break came when she was chosen to perform the opening set for Mercedes Sosa's concert at Symphony Hall, Boston, on November 16, 1995. She reached out to an even larger largest audience when she accepted an invitation from the Indigo Girls to join a 12-city, multi-artist tour, billed as the Suffragette Sessions, in 1998. During the show, Perez was joined, on her Spanish songs, by the Indigo Girls' Amy Ray and Emily Salier and translated versions of their tunes. Perez has also performed duets with Tish Hinojosa and Jane Siberry. Since 1995, Perez has been accompanied by Peruvian violinist Javier Chaparro. Their sound was enhanced by the addition of pianist Kay Sparks and cellist Margaret Coltman Smith.
Perez continues to maintain a very busy schedule. In 2000, she composed and performed the scores of the Sharir and Bustamante Danceworks' production The Leaf Storm, the Root Wy'mn Theater Company's Con Flama, and Jen Tsai's short film, When. Perez has openly opposed the American military's bombing practice on the small Puerto Rican island of Vieques.