Raye Zaragoza is an artist whose heritage is Indigenous, Mexican, and Japanese. She has long been accustomed to being different than those around her. It’s no surprise, then, that identity plays such a big part on her new album Woman in Color.
On the album, she explores not only her identity, but also the identity of the United States through both protest songs and songs that examine aspects of American society.
“They Say” is one of the songs that examines parts of America. Of the single, Zaragoza said, “This song is about the dysfunction of American power structures. It’s about how the systems built to support people don’t support all people.” That message comes through loud and clear when she sings, “They say that healthcare will never come cheap, but you’ll do just fine if you stay healthy. The melody features a slow and muted banjo part and a harmonica part that sounds like something from an early Bob Dylan album.
A tribute to the past is a big part of the first couple songs. In “Change Your Name,” she tells the story of her mother immigrating from Japan to the United States. She paints a vivid picture of the move to New York and the words of her mother that her name might be changed to something that’s easier for people in the States to say. “Fight like a Girl” is a protest song in which she sings about wanting to be taken to the places “where all the souls of our mothers had to go”. It’s hard not to be inspired when you hear all the things she wants to do to learn “to fight like a girl.”
Part of the charm of Zaragoza is the immediacy she creates with these songs. Whether she sings about someone calling her River or about Native women being found in the Red River in Manitoba, she makes you feel every moment of the song. And it’s hard not to feel something with her evocative lyrics and her voice that bears some similarity to Jade Jackson.
It’s fair to say that while exploring her identity, Zaragoza found her voice. The vocals are never overpowering when it comes to volume. The power in her voice comes from the words she sings, like, “I’m not afraid anymore. I’m a warrior.” . In an easy voice, she sings about difficult topics and delivers some hard truths. Woman in Color will be available everywhere on October 23. Order your copy here. https://www.rayezaragoza.com
Raye Zaragoza – vocals, acoustic guitar
Henri Bardot – vocals
Andrew Borger – percussion
Paul Brainard – trumpet
Justin Chase – Wurlitzer, electric piano, organ, Melotron, vibes, keys, additional electric guitar
Dylan Day – electric, acoustic, and slide guitar
Eli Moore – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass
Anna Fritz – cello
Ashley King – violin
Kyleen King – viola
Tucker Martine – additional percussion
Colin Meloy – harmonica
Laura Veirs – banjo
Produced, engineered, and mixed by Tucker Martine
Assistant engineer – Justin Chase
Mastered by Heba Kadry