South Los Angeles continues to be the home of a myriad of talents, one in particular being multi-instrumentalist Maria Blues. On the artist’s debut album, Look Who It Is, the artist embodies years of lessons and love for an earnest, and reflective collection. Blending traditional Ska, with heavy elements from the third wave sector, and Latin influences, Maria Blues’ execution is graciously clean. Yet, it isn’t fair to simply lump the artist with a string of genres when there is an attentive and flourishing build on the 9-track debut.
We can hear pain, guidance, tenderness and freedom displayed through classic ska upstrokes on the guitar throughout the planetary album. And while the track “Tonight” picks it up (pun not intended) and lovingly croons about a relationship’s blurred lines, featuring a solid horn solo, “Que Suene” builds upon a Cumbia soundscape for a balanced, melodious dance.
For the artist, who wrote, produced, and jumped on a variety of instruments — with help from friends to complete the project — there’s an obvious labor of love that is prevalent on Maria’s debut. “Most of the songs is what has been part of my life through teen years and even now,” explains Maria. “Some songs like ‘I Wish’ is dedicated to one of my closest friends that went through grief. ‘Alguien Mejor Que Yo’ is probably one of those songs that I can’t help but to feel emotional every time I sing it because a break-up or a heartbreak sucks. I try to stay true to myself and with that I hope to inspire other women to pursue their art.”
“Alguien Mejor Que Yo” grips tight for an introductory track. Those slow reminders unassumingly walk on the track and bite for a full circle, coming-to-age realization. It instantly becomes the definition of not only look who it is, but rather look at me now knock. The type of anthem you want played at your homecoming, in all humbleness. Maria’s vocals are dimensional and give life to the brass. Stylistically, the track pulls from accents of ska’s rhythm and blues, a signature blend from the artist heard on her last single “Rude Monkey” which also fittingly closes the album.
“Let Me Go” dabbles with a bit more funk and tempo switches, invigorating in sound. In a similar light, “What a Crazy Night” playfully skids across something you wish you didn’t witness. The track’s bridge is gorgeous, truly letting all horns sparkle in their glory nearing the sound of a blues guitar. Maria completely switches the tone by the track’s second half which speaks more to the artist’s finesse when balancing sweet and savory sounds.
On a more emotive scale, “I Wish” reads as a smoother and tender personally-penned opened letter. Maria’s rich tone spellbinds as she wishes to turn back time. Akin to Maria’s potency, “Otra Vez” is another favorite. It becomes a night studded ballad and contains smart switch-ups, tight rhythm sections, and an assertive presence.
It’s hard to not be in awe or smile after listening to Maria’s sultry vocals. Look Who It Is not only shines the light on the artist’s articulation and own delivery of the expansive genre of Ska, but of an independent artist’s craftship that deserves all the attention.
Maria Blues will be having two CD release parties. Be sure to catch her live January 11 at The Concert Lounge in Riverside and January 24 at Catch One in Los Angeles.
Cover photo artwork: Tony Torres