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Pop Music Review

Adventurous Perla Batalla Taps Her Classic-Rock Roots

February 17, 2001|ERNESTO LECHNER

Perla Batalla is the kind of artist Peter Gabriel would fall in love with. Comfortable in both English and Spanish, proud of her mestiza heritage, musically adventurous and accompanied by impeccable performers, Batalla would make a fitting addition to Gabriel's Real World record label roster.

On Thursday at Largo, where she played songs from her independently released new album "Heaven and Earth," backed by her five-piece band, the singer--who for many years was a backup vocalist for Leonard Cohen, one of her mentors--displayed musical roots steeped in the kind of classic rock that taps the memories of listeners over age 35.

Listen to folky Batalla epics such as "Eternity" and "Turtle Island" and you hear a Chicana Joni Mitchell, a gutsier Joan Baez, an idealistic artist who's absorbed Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" to its last drop of rustic perfection.

Batalla's music caresses with its harmonies and gentle rhythms, then draws you in with an unexpected chorus or an unusual melodic resolution. But above all, she is a born storyteller with a rambunctious sense of humor. When she told an amusing anecdote about stopping on Highway 126 to get doughnuts for her daughter, the dimly lit Largo seemed to be flooded with sunlight.

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