credit: Sarrah Danziger
Leyla McCalla introduced herself with 2013’s Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes. She set poems by Hughes in musical settings of her own construction on the critically acclaimed album, and her plain-spoken voice highlighted the common sense in Hughes’ works. McCalla moved to New Orleans in 2010 to busk on the streets. She also toured as part of the Carolina Chocolate Drops but left to pursue her own music and the project that threaded through it—an exploration of Haiti’s Creole culture and identity. McCalla connected with other Louisiana musicians who work with Creole traditions. That led to 2016’s A Day For The Hunter, A Day For The Prey, which reveals the art and humanity in folk songs. McCalla has kept her instrumentation spare to allow the song to shine, but her upcoming album, The Capitalist Blues, departs from that as she plays with a New Orleans-based band. The Capitalist Blues is different from McCalla’s previous albums, but she hears the connection between New Orleans and Haiti. Many of the themes are extensions of ones she examined on A Day for the Hunter, a Day for the Prey, and even though the lineups are very different, the songs come from the same place.
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