This Carla Morrison article was written by William Collins. Edited by Stephen Butchard.
It is a sad truth that, as English speakers, we have a tendency to ignore the musical output of cultures separate to our own. Spanish music in particular, with its billions of YouTube views, is a vast cornucopia of songs just begging to be listened to. A perfect place to start would be Carla Morrison’s ‘Amor Supremo’, the latest release from the soulful Mexican songstress and winner of two Latin Grammy’s for her 2012 album ‘Déjenme Llorar’.
Brooding and tattooed, Morrison’s features are almost that of a ‘Back to Black’ era Amy Winehouse, with a voice to match. Undoubtedly her strongest asset, her vocals are at times soaring, at once ethereal and commanding. She cites Patsy Cline as a major influence, which perhaps goes some way to explaining the depth of emotion she injects into some notes. Almost always acoustically accompanied, Morrison’s understated approach has won over a legion of fans who see her as more relatable than some of the more glossily produced stars paraded in the Latin charts.
‘Amor Supremo’, then, is immediately notable for its marked differences from the rest of Morrison’s catalog. Take the first track (and single), ‘Un Beso’. Where before, her words seemed to flutter through the air, the stuff of gentle daydreams, here they are carried on a wave of crashing drums, jerking you awake from the very start. The guitar is not lost in this album, but takes more of a background role, to the main players of lustrous synth and pounding percussion. Indeed, the likes of ‘Tierra Ajena’ and ‘Cercanía’ would not sound out of place on the ‘Drive’ soundtrack.
What remains though, is the voice that started it all. There is more than a hint of Lana Del Rey in the way she wraps her vocals around the word ‘beso’. When she pines ‘vamanos lejos’ it is hard to resist the urge to jump up and head for the door. You may not understand all she is saying, but really, does it matter? One of the highlights of the album is the wordless sighing throughout ‘No Vuelvo Jamás’.
That is not to say, however, that her lyrics are not powerful. The decision to keep every song in Spanish, at a point in her career when many artists would have attempted an English crossover hit, is a significant one for the fabric of the album. These are things that simply would not sound the same in English. “Azúcar Morena Es Tu Piel” (your skin is brown sugar) turns from elegant to clumsy when translated. Morrison’s words are uncompromising and so is the victory of this album, for an artist who has mastered the art of speaking without language, straight to the essence of a feeling.