Like many singer-songwriters, Lisa Morales started penning tunes as a way to express her emotions addressing the complex landscape of relationships through music and verse. Her perspective now is that of a woman who’s gone through many storms and witnessed their sometimes-beautiful aftermaths as well.
With Luna Negra and the Daughter of the Sun, Morales sought to reach even more deeply into her soul. Drawing from a creative palette informed by the rhythms, colors and flavors of the Southwest — from the painted-desert skies of her native Tucson, Arizona, where she and cousin Linda Ronstadt grew up, to the sea-salted air of Houston, where she moved at 18, and the history-filled city of San Antonio, where she now lives — she’s crafted an album of maturity, sensitivity and strength. On each of its 11 tracks — all but one of which were written or co-written by Morales — she confirms that she is a woman in touch with her emotions and inner power. Lyrics, sung in English, Spanish and Spanglish, also convey the promise of new beginnings.
The album is produced by Michael Ramos (the BoDeans, Patty Griffin, John Mellencamp) who plays accordion and keyboards. The album features guitarists Charlie Sexton (Bob Dylan), Adrian Quesada (Grupo Fantasma, Prince) and David Garza (Juliana Hatfield, Fiona Apple). Los Lonely Boys bassist Jojo Garza and Los Lobos drummer Cougar Estrada round out the core band. Both Garzas also provide backing vocals. On “Avalanche,” a standout duet with the late Jimmy LaFave. and on “Strong Enough,” folk icon Eliza Gilkyson helps lift up the inspiring anthem of female empowerment with backing vocals.
On the album’s sole cover, “Pena, Penita, Pena” Morales taps into the pain of losing her mother, whose poetic influence permeates every song — especially those Morales sings in her mother’s native language. The song features lead guitar by David Pulkingham with Morales on classical guitar and Michael “Cornbread” Traylor on bass. Though Morales, who discovered the song while her mother was dying of cancer, imbues it with sadness, she makes it sound like a gentle sunset serenade — and reports proudly that when she played it for her cousin, Ronstadt responded, “I would have definitely recorded that!”