The Lure of Lance Canales
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because if you got any closer to life in California’s Central Valley, we might have to put you to work.
By Eugene S. Robinson
Anyone wired into pop culture can’t escape the lust for authenticity that fires both a distaste for alleged studio creations like Lana Del Rey and outright misrepresenters like Milli Vanilli, and a love for the so-called originals. Good thing that California-born and bred musician Lance Canales and his band The Flood wouldn’t know where to start if they were trying to fake it. Emerging from California’s Central Valley, mired as it is in farms, farm politics and the business of getting up at dawn and working the fields, their music is a rough-hewn amalgam of Americana, blues, folk and rock, bashed out on old instruments. With Canales on voice and guitar, Daniel Burt on snare and stomp box and David Quinday on stand-up bass, it feels for all the world like the real deal.
“Something about the Central Valley, or maybe any farm community really,” said former denizen Larry Bustillo, “is that it’s hard, hot, difficult and makes absolutely no room at all for bullshit.” Which makes Canales, 43, laugh — and second the opinion. Canales is the descendant of cowboys, farmworkers and horse trainers; he trained wild horses as a kid. “We originally came from South Texas, but we were all over the place: picked cotton in Mississippi, and on my mother’s side we were in the Central Valley for over 100 years doing farm work. The way the family stories go, right after I was born my father put me on horseback to kind of christen me.”
But if the plan were to usher Canales into a life working the farm doing farm work, it wasn’t to be. The youngest of eight, he’d been sent to stay at an older sister’s place for a bit and kept sneaking into a shed where he’d found a mandolin and a ukulele, despite repeated spankings. Eventually his discipliners broke and got him a guitar, and the rest is heavy metal, Pentecostal holy roller history.
“I played in the church and I played heavy metal for years,” said Canales. After much searching, he found his musical voice in his late 20s when he learned to combine his influences. “There’s a fine line between God and the Devil.” His 2012 album Elixir mixes Southern gospel, blues, folk and musical traditions from Mexico — and it got noticed. In short order: festivals, shows, a meet with his idol Woody Guthrie’s son, Arlo, and critical nods aplenty. After December dates in California, February will find Canales and The Flood at the noteworthy Folk Alliance Festival in Kansas City — and anywhere else time off from his day job as a janitor at a juvenile detention facility will allow. And they’re planning a professional remix of Elixir well beyond what Canales calls “my little country boy mix.”
But listening to his little country boy mix of the cover song “Deportee,” penned for farmworkers killed in a plane crash whom Canales raised $10,000 to memorialize, you can feel your blood pulse. It makes you want to move around the room even if you hadn’t wanted to move around the room.
Don’t believe us? Only one way to find out.: