Singer and songwriter Cris Plata is deeply rooted in his Mexican heritage, and his music reflects the rich legacy that surrounded him in his youth growing up in Texas. But travels throughout the country with his family during those years also exposed him to many other influences.
Plata and his group Extra Hot will be the opening act at this year’s Driftless Music Festival in Viroqua’s Eckhart Park July 18.
Plata recently released his third album “Migration Road,” and the songs not only tap into music he heard at home but from all the places he experienced with his parents when they worked as migrant farm workers. In addition to cotton fields in Texas, they toiled in the tomato fields of Florida and Indiana, and on a range of vegetable farms in Wisconsin.
The CD is intended as a companion audio history to an autobiographical book, “Cris Plata: From Fields to Stage,” released last year as a part of the Wisconsin Historical Press Badger Biography Series. The album was produced by Plata’s wife Ann, Extra Hot’s bass player and backing vocalist.
Plata labels the album “the best CD I’ve done.” He credits Ann and the exposure to the talents of nationally known music producer and Viroqua native Butch Vig, who produced Plata’s first album in 1989. Plata says that Ann in particular was really paying attention to Vig’s storehouse of knowledge and creative input and it shows in the album’s nuances of instrumentation, content and tempo.
Area residents will be able to hear Plata’s unique story-telling blend of musical styles at the Fourth Annual Driftless Music Festival. Plata and Extra Hot will kick off the Fest starting at 1 p.m.
Following Plata will be four other outstanding regional musical ensembles. The Madison-based Cajun Strangers, one of the Midwest’s premier traditional Cajun bands, will perform at 2:45 p.m. Fest-goers will then be treated to the nationally known Chicago Afrobeat Project at 4:30 p.m., followed by the high octane funk band Bumpus at 6:30 p.m. The socially-aware Spirit Singer and Culture Weaver Mankwe Ndosi closes the Festival, beginning at 8:30 p.m.
The Driftless Music Festival, also features an array of food vendors showcasing the culinary bounty of the area with a large representation of locally sourced foods. There is no admission charge to the event, which runs from 1-10 p.m.
More information about the Festival and its featured performers and food vendors is available on-line at www.driftlessmusicfestival.com.