Gina VillalobosView in iTunes
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Blessed with a voice that can sound tough and vulnerable at will and a gift for writing songs that mine rough-hewn beauty from life's tragedies, Gina Villalobos became one of the most acclaimed new artists in the alternative country community with her breakthrough album, 2004's Rock 'n' Roll Pony, though it took her a long, hard road to get there. Villalobos was born in Lake Sherwood, CA, not far from Malibu; her father was a cinematographer and her mother was a passionate music fan and amateur vocalists who shared her love of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Linda Ronstadt, and Waylon Jennings with her daughter. Villalobos started playing guitar in high school, and after a brief stab at college, she decided to take a shot at a career in music after seeing a life-changing Rickie Lee Jones concert. Villalobos sang in a pair of rock bands that won some local buzz in southern California, Liquid Sunshine and the Mades, before striking out on her own as a solo artist in 2001. Villalobos released her first solo album, Beg from Me, in 2002, in which she allowed her expressive songwriting to come to the forefront for the first time. Villalobos supported the album with plenty of appearances at California nightclubs, and in early 2003 she began work on a follow-up. However, in October of that year Villalobos was involved in a serious accident that resulted in severe damage to her right eye; after several rounds of surgery, doctors informed Villalobos that the blindness in her right eye would be permanent, and she would likely suffer side effects for years to come. While the news was an emotional body blow, Villalobos poured her creative energies into her music as a way of both expressing and channeling her pain. Villalobos completed the album Rock 'n' Roll Pony in 2004, and the disc became a major critical success in both the United States and Great Britain; after legendary BBC disc jockey Bob Harris called it "a contender for album of the year," she embarked on the first of several acclaimed tours of the U.K., despite health problems brought on by her accident and aggravated by the stress of touring. Villalobos signed with the European independent label Laughing Outlaw, which reissued both Beg from Me and Rock 'n' Roll Pony, and she later struck a deal with Face West Records in the United States, which issued the American edition of her third solo disc, Miles Away, in the spring of 2007, with tours of both the United States and Europe to follow. ~ Mark Deming