The Albuquerque duo BéBé La La – Alicia Ultan and Maryse Lapierre – is a breath of fresh air. These folk/Americana artists do things their own way. They’re versatile in covering many subjects in many styles. And they handle those styles and subjects with verve.
Their vocal harmonies are bright and inviting, and they mesh fluidly.
Their songs are crisp and compelling. Some are social commentaries, as with the unabashed criticism in “IRS,” the opening cut. The lyrics declare, “Take my money, take my pride/Hold me to your rule/I can follow where you lead/But don’t take me for a fool.”
Another cut, “Ruins,” with Native chanting in the background, is a prayerful, moving lament for a perceived legacy: “We heard your sisters calling/300 years they cried/They held the earth soft in their hands and understood why. They were the wise ones…”
The album closes with an appropriate sweet lullaby titled “Hush.”
Ultan is the primary composer of BéBé La La’s songs. On the CD, she wrote the music for nine of the 10 cuts. The exception is the French-titled romance “Au pays de ton corps,” which translates to “The Landscape of Your Body.” Lapierre, who is French-Canadian, charms with her lead singing on it.
The muted trumpet of veteran jazz musician Bobby Shew is heard on the cut. Shew is one of a slew of guest artists who enrich the album’s varied flavors.
Ultan and Lapierre also are instrumentalists. Ultan plays guitar and viola, while Lapierre plays accordion and harmonium.