The Blessing and the Curse is the surprising and inspiring story of local folk, Americana, and rockabilly musician Lance Canales, who rose from humble California Central Valley farmworker beginnings to prominence in the international music scene. It’s also the story of the curious and tremendous popularity of Americana music abroad in today’s political climate.
Starting from his modest upbringing in the small campesino town of Orosi, California, we follow Canales on his journey from childhood to adulthood to his ongoing drive to bring working-class folk music to the masses.
Canales garnered a reputation as a child of being able to train wild horses, and for years took lumps to help his family make ends-meet. It wasn’t until he confiscated an older sister’s beat-up guitar and combined it with his vocals that he discovered (in his mother’s fire-and-brimstone church) that he was able to pursue music as a way to slowly carve out a path from his hard-toil life.
Following Canales into adulthood, we learn about his deep-seated desire to bring working-class spiritual folk music to the masses. Through sweat and determination, Canales records over five albums and tours throughout the world to enthusiastic audiences. He recently completed a two-month European tour, where his album hit number five on the European charts in the Americana category.
Additionally, Canales collaborated with Nora Guthrie, the Guthrie Foundation, and his childhood friend, American Book Award-winning Valley author Tim Z. Hernandez, on a concert to raise $10,000 for a memorial headstone for the 28 deportees project. Canales initiated the idea and fundraising effort to place a memorial headstone with the names of the 28 deportees and plane crash victims who were discovered buried nameless in a mass grave in Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno, California. Canales’ idea was to record and read the names of the deportees in the background of Canales’ cover of the famous Woody Guthrie song about the incident.
In September 2013, in a historic moment, the headstone was unveiled and hundreds of people attended from all over the country, including coverage by The New York Times. A Los Angeles Times reporter captured a shot of Canales kneeling down to the unveiled monument in a moment of clear emotional triumph next to the grandson of one of the plane crash victims. Hernandez’ corresponding book, All They Will Call You, was recently released in January 2017 and is a genre-bending work labeled a “documentary novel” based on the Woody Guthrie song, Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee).
Today, Canales is with Americana folk label Music Road Records, which put out his album, The Blessing and the Curse.
Canales recently ended a two-month European tour in tandem with his internationally and critically acclaimed album. Yet, with all that, Canales stays local and rooted in the Central Valley. He plans to “make it” while keeping his home-base in the heart of California. The question is, can a local artist truly thrive internationally while staying based in the Valley? Is it imperative for a musician or artist to move to LA, NYC or Nashville to make a career? Or can that be achieved while living in the Valley, and if so, what are the challenges and benefits of doing so?
But in addition to his personal journey, we are now seeking funding for a feature-length documentary to simultaneously tell the unusual story of Americana’s enormous and surprising popularity abroad, a particularly noteworthy oddity in today’s political climate. It’s a cultural subject we haven’t yet seen fully explored.
In general, the entire documentary would be told through interviews, live events, and theatrical recreations. Animations and other motion graphics elements would be incorporated into the video. The visual feel will be that of a retro vibe.
Directed by David Kennedy (USA)