Ave Que Emigra
Nobody to Love
Blues de Mar
Pale Bright Lights
Hermana Rosetta (Sam Phillips)
Mess a Good Thing
‘Til Waking Light
Salvese Quien Pueda
The Immigrants (David Rudder)
Across the Borderline (Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, and Jim Dickinson)
Like pretty much every artist I have seen perform at the Appel Room, Gaby Moreno expressed her awe of the Lincoln Center venue’s view. I had seen the view before, but I hadn’t seen a full set from Moreno. And I feel lucky I got to see her American Songbook show on February 27th as it brought a warm breath of Latin America and the southwest to an otherwise cold evening. The Guatemalan immigrant performed a rousing set of original songs, both old and unreleased, as well as covers with accompaniment by Davíd Garza on guitar, Kimon Kirk on bass, Sebastian Aymanns on drums and, for a few songs, Jeremy Kittel on violin.
Moreno is an artist worthy of soundtracking a future Quentin Tarantino film. She possesses vocal chops that skirt sultry tones (“Nobody to Love”) bringing to mind Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang” in Kill Bill. And her music is steeped in the bluesy rock vibes some of the director’s films tap into (see “Ave Que Emigra”, “Pale Bright Lights” or many more). Moreno herself even dropped his name at one point suggesting he would be someone she would dream of working work.
While not overt tribute, Moreno’s performance made frequent reference to immigrants, their plight and her own heritage. She dedicated “Ave Que Emigra” “to all the immigrants out there who are also fighting for their dreams”. Moreno’s “El Sombreron” is based on a spooky folk tale about a small man with a guitar and giant hat who serenades women and braids their hair at night after climbing into their windows. “‘Til Waking Light” was an as-of-yet unreleased song that came about because of everything going on at the border between US and Mexico. And she performed her latest release, a cover of David Rudder’s “The Immigrants”, which emphatically states “immigrants are here to stay and help build America.”
Before the latter, she strongly hinted of a new album that will be out in May and, later on, shared its title, ¡Spangled! (Nonesuch). The project finds Moreno covering pan-American folk songs (including the version of “The Immigrants” with an orchestra below. She recorded the album with Van Dyke Parks and, based on the teaser at Lincoln Center, it sounds like it will be a timely and rewarding listen. Then, later in May, Moreno will join David Gray as the opener for the US leg of his tour.