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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Unexpected But Appreciated Christmas Gift From Perla

About a week before Christmas I received a very pleasant surprise from Perla Batalla, a very talented, versatile singer from Ojai, California, that I had the honor of opening for some years ago at the Stone's Throw here in Eau Claire. Dedicated to her recently deceased father-in-law, Claud Mann, Jr., the album is as much of a gem as all her other great albums.

Entitled "We Three Kings", one might suspect that it is a Christmas album, but it is so much more. We Three Kings, the first cut, is done with a latin beat and sparse string accompaniment which helps to show case Perla's amazing voice.

The second cut is A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square/Joy to the World, an inventive juxtaposition of two well known songs that Perla weaves together seamlessly.

The third cut, Christmas Time is Here, features Perla's daughter Eva-Batalla-Mann. They sing together and the blend is perfect! Heavy with jazz influences, it is a very soothing, deeply moving Christmas salute that makes one want to sit in front of the fire with a cup of schnapps-laced hot chocolate and take in the beauty of a decorated Christmas tree and the warmth of a good fire. Perla adds Spanish lyrics with the help of Gilberto Gonzalez.

The fourth cut, Noche De Paz/Silent Night starts with a beautiful. jazzy Latin piano and features, once more, Perla's deeply touching vocal style. I am tempted to say that it is one of my favorites, but how does one choose a favorite???

One of the things that makes this CD so very special is that it is a compilation that you can play year round as the fifth cut is a simply scripted, guitar only, version of the old folk ballad The Water is Wide with Marty Van Loan on guitar. Marty Van Loan has been a performing singer songwriter in the southern California area for the past 20 years. In 1997 he was a finalist in the Telluride troubadour contest and after you listen to him play, you might want to look into his own recordings.

Perla teams with daughter Eva again on the old spiritual Mary Had a Baby featuring sweet, sweet harmonies.

The Little Drummer Boy follows with simple yet complex instrumentation of piano, bass, drums, and a special performance by Perla's husband Claud Mann on Congas and bongos.

Eva's Danny Boy blew me away the first time I heard her sing it! And it continues to blow me away each time I listen to this recording which she made in 2005. I can only imagine how proud Perla must be of her daughter!

As Perla was at one time a back up singer for Leonard Cohen, it is only fitting that she includes the song Hallelujah by Mr. Cohen as the next to last cut on the CD.

Perla concludes the CD with a stirring rendition of Auld Lang Syne - one which I will be certain to play tonight, New Year's Eve - and I shall lift a glass to both Perla and Eva and thank the powers that be that I was fortunate enough to meet Perla!

Do yourself a favor and order this CD! You can find it on Perla's site at: www.perla.com.


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