Lhasa Lhasa

There have been few Canadian musical stars as elusive or reclusive as Lhasa de Sela. A little freaked out by the success of her Juno-winning, platinum-selling 1998 album, La Llorona, she literally ran away and joined the circus (in France). She returned in 2003 with the stunning The Living Road, then dropped out of sight again. Thankfully, she's back, and with an equally accomplished disc. Hers is one of those voices that you have to hear to believe. An instrument of astonishing purity, strength and clarity, it somehow transcends genre, as do Lhasa's eloquent songs. World music, folk, blues and cabaret strains merge seamlessly, though the French- and Spanish-sung songs that graced earlier albums are absent. The instrumentation and her production are equally imaginative, as on opening track "Is Anything Wrong," which incorporates pedal steel and harp effectively. Patrick Watson contributed music to two songs: the haunting "Rising" and "Where Do You Go." There's an oft-melancholy atmosphere to the songs, as on "Bells" ("bells are ringing, birds are flying upside down, my heart has been lost for too long"). The results are a little akin to the emotional impact of fado. If she ever played the conventional promotional game, Lhasa would surely be a major international star. For now, we can just be grateful for a new gem. (Audiogram)