Music could easily be a blessing and a curse. Lance Canales & the Flood are making damn sure you remember that with their next album The Blessing and the Curse. With songs like “Deportee,” “The Farmer” and “Stomp It Out,” he makes sure we remember where we all came from and where we are going.
Lance Canales & the Flood are a roots-blues-influenced Americana trio from California’s breadbasket, where Canales lived the life that so many songs have been written about since the birth of roots music—hard labor, one-room shacks and taunting ghosts whispering of a better life. Canales’ guttural vocals combine a hard-edged storytelling approach beneath a stripped-down, foot-stomping, acoustic instrumentation.
Canales rendition of “Plane Crash at Los Gatos: Deportee,” written by Woody Guthrie in 1948, reveals the names of the Mexican casualties whom were simply referred to as “deportees” in the original news article:
After meditating and hearing the album over and over again, I sat down with Lance Canales and had a short and incredibly inspiring chat about music, immigration, the past and more.
Marlena Fitzpatrick: How are you not worldwide news and not on the cover in Rolling Stone! What inspired you to pick up a guitar and start writing and performing in the genre of folks, blues and Americana?
Lance Canales: Growing up in my little farm in California, it’s all farm laborers and it’s rural. I trained horses when I was a little boy. My dad and grandfathers were horse trainers, too. So, I had that whole vaquero background. I literally knew how to manage horses in a wagon. I rebelled against it and became rockero. My heroes are Jimmy Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen.
My mom is a Holy Roller, a Pentecostal. I learned to sing when I was young, too. There’s a little southern gospel style in my music. After getting over being angry and writing heavy metal songs, I got into the old traditional style of blues. I started diving into it and played the acoustic guitar. I incorporated my roots—and my upbringing.
It’s been a long path for me. There are no blues singers where I grew up. There are certainly no Latinos in these genres.
MF: Interesting. You’re the second Latino I’ve interview thriving in folk, country, blues, Americana music. Have you experienced discrimination of any kind?
LC: There isn’t that many people of color in this genre, even though the roots of blues come from Black culture. For us, I’m probably the only Mexican playing in a music festival, for example. With that being said, the festival promoters, audience and producers, they’re the ones reaching out to me.
MF: They want to see more diversity.
LC: They want to see more diversity. They do love that. I love that because it’s been a beautiful thing between me and them. I basically came out of nowhere. Suddenly I did “Deportee,” and I changed everything about that song. They were behind me saying, “Yes, sing it that way.”
MF: There is something very genuine about you that comes across effortlessly. I can relate to their cheerleading.
LC: On the flip side, on our Latino or Hispanic or whatever name they give us, this genre is not explored, so it’s a hard sale. You have to go back to Richie Valens.
MF: So it’s a matter of exposure.
LC: Yes. The gap between Woody Guthrie, the folk scene and Mexican people closed when we wrote the song about the plane that crashed and the Mexican community [that] raised money to bury the 28 bodies. The folk community learned about the song and the history behind it.
MF: Now hold on, explain “Whatever name they give us.”
LC: I hate boxes. They want to give us all these names. Whatever makes me equal as you, I’m for that. If you identify with Latino, so do I.
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