Listening to Alicia Blue’s soon-to-be-released album Bravebird I recalled the first time I saw her at a Sofar concert in Venice CA almost three years ago. I was sitting on the floor of a dress shop where the concert was being held; I don’t remember who else was on the bill, I just remember her. Although the acoustics were bad and she was accompanying herself on an unamplified guitar with no band or backup, her voice, her intensity, and her stories were so powerful that I forgot where I was and just got lost in her music. When I returned to reality, I immediately booked her for my radio show.
Since then I have followed her, attended her gigs in small clubs and restaurants, listened to her new releases, and reviewed her first album – telling my readers that I was almost brought to tears by her song “Uncle Juan Wastes His Stardust”. I was also almost brought to tears by her story – a working class Latina, the only girl with many brothers, working at anything she could get to support herself, her family, her music. And the racism – of being a “passing Latina” and not embracing her heritage, feeling like a spy in her own neighborhood. But she never quit, never stopped working to pay the bills and write the songs.
All that has paid off with Bravebird, her new album to be released this spring. Heartbreaking, happy in places, painful, and deeply personal, Bravebird shows off not only Blue’s intense talent and voice, but how she has grown into a fully matured world-class folk/pop singer-songwriter. From the candid stories that fill out her lyrics to the angelic quality of her voice, to the arrangements and the production by Grammy Award- winning producer Rich Jacques, Bravebird is a masterwork created from the blend of a from-the-heart narrative and a from-heaven singing gift.
It is also a personal story unfolding within the larger story of the rising success of Mexican-American music and the Latinx’s whose skill and heritage have made it the fastest growing music in the US and some of the most popular in the world. Alicia has spoken her truth to audiences with earlier songs like “Incognito” about being a “white Latina” who is “one of the good ones”. In Bravebird she sings of the quiet determination and invisible hard work from delivery driving to cleaning houses that she, like many Mexican Americans, have stuck to in order to bring their music to the world. In “The Joke” she sings “Gotta get these floors clean/Almost didn’t make it over, that Christmas eve/Scrubbin these floors” of what it took to survive.
Traces of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez inhabit her lyrics and her voice. “Catch me on the road (if you can, if you can)/Give me your headlights/I am your doe” she tells us in “Bloodletting”, echoing the rebellion and the fear of the sixties. And that is the genius of Alicia Blue – a voice with timeless beauty, and lyrics as searing as life today for so many. She breaks new ground while embracing her history.
Bravebird is not only an album whose music will captivate you, it is an ambassador to the non-Latin world that tells a human story from the corazón of millions of Americans who have helped build our country but who were part of this country before it was a country, whose music swirls around us every day and lifts our spirits and shows us the endless horizon of Latino creativity. That is the larger message of Bravebird, and the ambassadorship of Alicia Blue, delivered in English and Spanish in what will be one of the most celebrated albums of the new year. She is truly a Bravebird.
Bravebird will be released this spring. “Queen of Echo Park” will be released Jan 31 on all the usual platforms. Alicia will be opening for Lauren Ruth Ward at the Paramount Theater in Los Angeles on Feb 27.
Patrick O’Heffernan is co-host of the LA-based, nationally syndicated weekly program, Music FridayLive! and is a music reviewer for online magazines Vents, The Hollywood Progressive and MusicJunkie. He has also co-hosted a national political talk show, The Fairness Doctrine, and hosted the “Uplinks” media segment on Saturday All Things Considered on NPR. He holds a PhD in International Relations from MIT, has been awarded an Emmy, four Addy’s, and a Webby-Honors, among other awards. He has published 5 books and ghost-written others. A project he co-launched, the North Asia Nuclear Free Zone, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. He serves on the Board of Netroots Nation.