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Enrique Bunbury finds inspiration in all genres

Singer Enrique Bunbury (onstage earlier this month Las Vegas) headlines Congress Theater Nov. 28. |  JasMerritt ~ Getty Images

Singer Enrique Bunbury (onstage earlier this month in Las Vegas) headlines the Congress Theater on Nov. 28. | Jason Merritt ~ Getty Images

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ENRIQUE
BUNBURY

♦ 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28 (tickets for Nov. 27 date honored)

♦ Congress Theater,
2135 N. Milwaukee

♦ Tickets, $30

♦ (773) 598-0852;
congresschicago.com

Though Latin music stars like Shakira and Juanes have conquered America, it’s Spain’s Enrique Bunbury who has truly absorbed the American roots-rock tradition.

A superstar in Europe and Latin America, he’s a specialist in all American styles: witness his “Hellville de Luxe” (2008), “Las Consecuencias” (2011) and “Licenciado Cantinas” (2011). So it’s ironic that this charismatic artist, often called Spain’s Bob Dylan, Tom Waits or even Elvis Presley, has yet to receive a total embrace in the land of his greatest inspiration.

He’s trying to remedy that. Now on his second U.S. tour in less than a year, Bunbury, 45, has moved to Los Angeles, where he recently conducted a two-hour Q&A session at the Grammy Museum. He also just released a three-disc edition of “Licenciado Cantinas,” which includes a DVD and “De Cantina en Cantina: Live on Stage, 2011-12” (the latter is available as a solo MP3 release via iTunes and Amazon).

We caught up with Bunbury, who performs Nov. 28 at the Congress, via email; the following also includes comments from his Grammy Q&A and other recent talks:

One of Bunbury’s favorite mottos is “My faith in politics is nil, my faith in people is infinite.” He has aligned himself with the Indignado movement, which grew out of the 2011 protests demanding radical change in Spanish politics:

“I can’t imagine who is not indignant. Who is happy with the situation? If you look closely at the movement, there are mainly two ways of thinking. Some want to improve the democracy, and some want deeper changes and to rethink our way of living. I’m with the latter group.”

Becoming a father for the first time at age 43 has strengthened his resolve:

“Late fatherhood has helped me to be more responsible,” he told the Associated Press in Mexico City. “Having in your hands the fate of a person so small, who has her future before her, makes you think how you have to work to provide a better world than the one you are living in now.”

As a songwriter, Bunbury often traverses a bleak terrain of desolation and loneliness. In “De Todo el Mundo,” from “Las Consecuencias,” he utters this cri de coeur: “I am a vagabond/Always passing from here to there, away from everyone.” It crystallizes the self-portrait woven throughout his work: the artist as wanderer, a loner looking for his place in the world:

“I have lived a very nomadic life. I love moving around and living in different places,” he said at the Grammy Museum. “The personal situations I’ve gone through in each stage of my career have always has been reflected in my work. Although for some songs, I’ve chosen external characters, my views always end up showing there.”

He’s traveled around the world but “Licenciado Cantinas” brought him to El Paso, Texas, where he recorded the disc at the nearby Sonic Ranch:

“Sometimes you have to follow the signals and listen to the clues. My friends from [Mexican rock band] Zoe told me about this studio. So I went for a visit and fell in love with it. It’s an amazing place! Because of the equipment there but also because it has an incredible location. For this album, it fit so perfectly.”

Bunbury also told the El Paso Times: “I really think the sound of Texas, and El Paso, specifically, is heard on this album. We have these special effects that we recorded in the area — trains, wind and night — but also the music is about the frontier, the passion I feel for American music, from Tierra del Fuego to the Rio Grande.”

He’s become the Richard Burton of the Latin Grammys. Though the great Welsh-born film star received seven Oscar nominations, he never won. Nominated this year in the best long-form video category for “Licenciado Cantinas: The Movie,” Bunbury lost to perennial Latin Grammy fave Juanes when the awards were announced last week. But he hasn’t soured on the process yet:

“It’s not for me to judge the parameters by which the Grammys are awarded. It totally escapes me but I do think a Latin Grammy is something important,” he said at the Grammy Museum session. “This year’s nominations in general have enough interesting things so that they stray a little from the usual cliches. This is my seventh nomination, but I don’t know how it feels to win. I imagine it must feel good. Perhaps at some point in my life, I will win. I hope it’s not when I’m too old.”

Besides, he’s received an even greater prize:

“Mexico gave me one of the greatest honors in my life. One night, several years ago, I was in a bar near the Plaza Garibaldi [the square in Mexico City where mariachis gather], and I heard a mariachi band play my song ‘Infinito.’ I was moved to tears. To me, that is worth even more than a Grammy.”



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