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Back Where I Belong

by aireene espiritu

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No More 02:05
Bayan Ko 03:48
My Illusions 03:51
Dukha 02:18
Life Goes On 04:01
Oras Na 03:38


This album is a prequel. The missing link between the songs she never sang and everything she has done to date. On this album, Aireene Espiritu explores the roots that made her the unique voice she is in folk music and simultaneously reveals to us both a powerful persona and a touching glimpse into her background.

We had hints. The clues have been there all along in her phrasing -the personal touch that every singer applies to the basic melody and rhythm of a song. Old-school folkies tend to either minimize this coloration or stick to traditional affectations of Appalachia and the European roots that music came from. Aireene, on the other hand, tends to pull her seasoning from the gospel and R&B end of the spice rack. Where does she get her flavor profiles?

50 years ago another diminutive, Filipino-American singer was carving out a name for herself as an R&B singer and songwriter. Sugar Pie DeSanto’s biggest hit was her 1960 single, “I Want To Know”, which reached #4 on the Billboard Hot R&B Chart. She was signed as a singer and songwriter to Chess Records in Chicago in their heyday of the ‘60s and built a reputation as a dynamic performer whose live shows far surpassed her studio recordings. At 80, Sugar Pie is still with us, performing in 2016.

LVF’s Jim Pugh met Aireene at a folk music conference in 2014. She was playing solo with just a ukulele among hundreds of other performers, but Jim came away with a bug in his ear. Over the next year he developed an idea that seemed out of left field -Sugar Pie’s R&B music with folk singer Aireene singing.

No one familiar with Aireene could have seen this coming or predicted the outcome, but having heard the result, one wonders how there could have ever been any doubt. What you hold in your hand is the perfect sum of pieces no one considered might fit. A gorgeous answer to a question unasked. In spite of the fact that Aireene has never been here, this is where she comes from. This is the look back at the songs she never sang. Aireene Espiritu, back where she belongs…


released January 1, 2016

Back Where I Belong

1. No More (Traditional) 02:05
2. Going Back Where I Belong (Sugar Pie DeSanto) 02:43
3. The One Who Really Loves You (Smokey Robinson) 03:37
4. Witch for a Night (Sugar Pie DeSanto) 03:07
5. Bayan Ko (José Corazón de Jesús/Constancio de Guzmán) 03:46
6. Down by the Riverside (Traditional) 02:33
7. Ask Me 'Bout "Nothin' But the Blues (Henry Boozier/Deadric Malone) 05:10
8. Can't Let You Go (Alvin & Peylia Parham) 03:31
9. My Illusions (Sugar Pie DeSanto) 03:50
10. I Don't Wanna Fuss (Gerald Sims) 03:37
11. Life Goes On (Bennie Benjamin/Sol Marcus) 04:01
12. Dukha (Chito Ilacad/Marvic Sotto) 02:17
13. Oras Na (Coritha) 03:37

THE BAND (in alphabetical order):
Lisa Leuschner Andersen - vocals on Going Back Where I Belong, I Don't Wanna Fuss, My Illusions, The One Who Really Loves You
Kid Andersen - guitars, mellotron, bass
June Core - drums
Don Dally - violin and viola
Ed Dulay - guitar, vocals on Bayan Ko, Dukha
Aireene Espiritu - vocals, tenor ukulele
Steve Evans - bass
Ari Freedman - cello
John Halbleib - trumpet on Witch for a Night
Faris Jarrah - trombone on Witch for a Night
Derrick "D'Mar" Martin - percussion on My Illusions
Jim Pugh - organ, piano
Mitus Quevedo - vocals on Dukha
Bernie Quevedo - guitar, vocals on Bayan Ko, Dukha
Frankie Ramos - saxophone on Going Back Where I Belong
Eric Spaulding - saxophone on Can't Let You Go, Witch for a Night
Maurice Tani - vocals on Can't Let You Go
Robert Welsh - organ, guitar
Carlos Zialcito - harmonica on Life Goes On

Front photo by Rick DiDia
Family photo by Bob Hakins
Album artwork by Maurice Tani

Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Made in the U.S.A. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

Boatloads of Thanks
Thanks so much to the Little Village Foundation for allowing me to explore a different but familiar sandbox. To Uncle Butch, Uncle Boyet and Auntie Mitus for your influence in music and making this album whole. To the incredible and kind musicians who played in this album and everyone at Greaseland Studios. You blew my mind, so damn good, thank you. I am a grateful and lucky gal. love mucho, aireene

Produced by Jim Pugh, Kid Andersen for Little Village Foundation
Recorded/Mixed by at Kid Andersen at Greaseland Studios San Jose, CA
Co-Engineered by Robby Yamilov
Mastered by Tom Size



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aireene espiritu Oakland, California

Aireene Espiritu plays a mix of stompin', swayin' and timeless Americana reminiscent of front porch storytelling, of ghosts and the living, times of laughter and tears. A Color-Coded Symphony is her latest project, a musical experience connecting the audience’s ethnic origins to rhythms of the world. ... more

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