The most impressive thing about Lhasa’s The Living Road is its sheer earthiness. Rarely does world music (and I use that term because it’s the only catch-all that could include all of Living Road’s various styles) feel this solid, this far removed from the spacey excesses which often hinder the genre.

Despite this earthiness, or perhaps because of it, The Living Road doesn’t feel a part of any particular group. Instead, it becomes an intensely personal statement from the woman herself. The trilingual lyrics (English, French and Spanish) are mostly translated for the benefit of us monolinguals, but this is more a fringe benefit than a necessity. How someone who spent the last few years touring with a circus could learn to produce music of such restraint and focus is a mystery.

Among the many excellent tracks, "Small Song" is a standout. The slow, shuffling beat and haunting vocals combine with an almost subliminal power.

An utterly unique, but strangely familiar, album.

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