If you get a chance to, I strongly encourage that you listen to Carrie Rodriguez's set on Mountain Stage from a few months ago. It'll give you a lot more insight into this beautiful, multi-layered album. Shortly after the election, I posted a new mission statement to the left of this review.
If country music is considered the most American of American music (it's not but okay) then it must be recognized that country music is not the sole domain of white folks -- never has been, and it can't be moving forward. This mission statement was in large part inspired by this album. Lola is named for Lola Beltran, a Mexican actress and recording artist. Lola calls attention to the Chicanx* experience. "Llano Estacado" relays the experience of migrant farmers in an isolated town in North Texas. "The West Side" reminds us that in suburban communities, Latinx people still face discrimination. But the most triumphant song of the album, "Z," weaves these themes together as Rodriguez puts her stake in the ground (to use a colonial term.) "Z" is a big country number that reifies Rodriguez's pride in her history and asserts her place in a white-dominated genre. After all, lots of Texas music has been influenced by centuries of cultural exchange with Mexico.
Since many of the songs are in Spanish, I only catch about 70% of their meaning, but it doesn't matter. To appreciate the album, Rodriguez simultaneously challenges the audience to actively learn about the cultural references in her songs if they're not already familiar with them while inviting others into a form of music they might not ordinarily listen to. (I had to look up Lola Beltran.) This is, after all, what American society demands of all newcomers. That being said, it's not difficult to catch the meaning, nor is it difficult to admire Rodriguez and her band's consummate skill and passion. Lola is one of those rare albums that can capture the many facets of the person behind it and is one of my favorites this year.
*Chicano is the term for US-born people of Mexian descent. It is also written as Chican@ to be inclusive of men and women, or, increasingly chicanx to be inclusive of all genders
Carrie Rodriguez -- Official, Facebook, Purchase from Carrie Rodriguez, Amazon