ariel camacho

Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes Del Rancho – El Karma (Del/Sony Latin 2014)
This hypnotic trio album wants to trick you into thinking it’s traditional corrido music, when in fact it’s very modern. The 14 drumless songs follow a formula: Camacho and his guitarist, César Iván Sánchez, sing simple tunes in close harmony while tuba player Israel Meza plays basslines that double as leads. With the tuba hurling interjections around his vocal throughlines, Camacho calmly sets his requinto rippling. The results sound like dusty folklore, not at all like the shiny banda pop or driving corridos that currently occupy the regional Mexican zeitgeist. But is the combination of tuba with the higher-pitched requinto at all “traditional”? In Mexican bolero trios, requintos generally take on the virtuoso role, accompanied by two guitars, no bass instrument in sight. And as for norteño tubas — well, Gustavo Arellano doesn’t like em:

Time was when the accordion player was the papi chulo of the Mexican regional-music world, but tuba players have usurped the position in the past couple of years for banda music and that horrible-sounding banda-conjunto norteño pendejada.

[Emphasis mine.]

This isn’t that. But I mean, I like ’em both. Given the choice of a tuba or a bass, I’ll take the tuba 9 times out of 10. (As always, the 10th slot belongs to Noel Torres.) Though Camacho’s 14 songs are samey, their sound and melodies are indelible. And at a glance the songs all look new, mostly attributed to DEL Publishing. Written by a shadowy figure named El Diez, “El Karma” is an unlikely radio hit; though both Torres and Revolver Cannabis covered the song last year, Camacho’s stripped-down version sounds the most sinister. He and his Plebes also play the requisite Luna/Inzunza ballad — it’s pretty and not at all sinister, unless in Luciano Luna’s ubiquity you find a sign of the pending apocalypse.