The first time Lance Canales attended Folk Alliance International’s annual conference in Kansas City, Mo., he was a relatively unknown act. He was there on the strength of “Deportees,” his reworking of the Woody Guthrie folk classic – a song that has been famously covered by Pete Seeger and the Byrds, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
But he still was a self-released songwriter from the central San Joaquin Valley who worked a day job as a janitor.
“I didn’t know what a big deal it was,” says Canales. It was at the conference that he connected with Music Road Records, an Americana label out of Austin, Texas.
When he returned to the conference this February, it was as a signed artist. “The Blessing and The Curse” was released on Tuesday. Canales hosts an album release show Saturday, Aug. 29, at Arte Americas, with Motel Drive and Richfield.
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‘Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)’ tells the story of a plane crash near Coalinga in which 28 migrant farm workers were killed.
Canales is known for his gritty, stripped-down, bluesy brand of folk music, but to prepare for the album the singer immersed himself in the early forms of the music. He bought the Joe Bussard box set and picked up an array of yard-sale records — Lefty Frizzell and Jimmy Rogers and Freddy Fender.
“Before he was Freddy Fender,” Canales says.
He pulled speakers outside while doing his yard work and let the music permeate his very being. He wanted whatever he created to be a spin-off of this music in some way.
The show will broadcast live on KFCF 88.1 FM
“I basically got that music into my subconscious,” Canales says.
The album was recorded in Austin over the course of a week and features such guest session musicians as Eliza Gilkyson and Ray Bonneville. Having access to those kinds of resources and support from a record label was new for Canales. He always has produced his own work.
The label also has given him a platform to get his music heard. The album already is getting press attention and radio play. It is doing well on the Americana charts in Europe, Canales says, which means there might be some European shows in his future.
Already, he has a few shows booked in support of the album, including the Sisters Folk Festival in Oregon in September.
“It’s hard to get seen,” Canales says, especially for a musician from the Central Valley.
It’s a struggle, he says, but one that ultimately gives you the freedom to create the kind of music you want. It’s part of the blessing (and curse) of the album’s title.
“There’s no rules,” Canales says.
“We’re making the rules.”
- 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29
- Arte Americas, 1630 Van Ness Ave.
- Tickets: $8-$10
- 559-266-2623, arteamericas.org