It is the longstanding position of NorteñoBlog that the puro sax styles of Chihuahua and Zacatecas would improve with the addition of more terrible “sax” puns in the titles. Out in the west Texas town of El Paso we find the brand new group H Norteña, whose debut album Definitivamente (alternate title: Definición de Saxo) is just out on the tiny Regiomex label. Back when duranguense was a thing, lead singer Heraclio “Lako” Cepeda fronted the duranguense outfit Conjunto Atardecer, which means he knows his way around saxes playing absurdly jaunty riffage over unrelenting polka beats. Sometime before you die, check out Atardecer’s 2009 hit “Encontre,” as delightfully clattery and synth-stabby as any duranguense hit you care to name.
With members hailing from both Durango and Chihuahua, H Norteña slows down the tempo a few clicks for songs like the title single and “Amor Fantastico” (aka “Saxo Fantastico y Donde Encontrarlo”). NorteñoBlog is partial to their herky jerky folk dance medley “Popurri de Huapangos” because I enjoy subdividing 6/8 beats while contorting my body. Just a little trick I picked up from Dr. Alex Comfort M.D., D.Sc., Y.M.M.V.
Tired of huapango? Fed up with… merequetengue? Then by all means avoid “Mi Son” (suggested title: “Sonrisa Saxy”) by Azierto Norte. It’s another galloping 6/8 instrumental with tricky internal rhythms and those rarest of all beasts: bajo sexto solos. And whatever you do, stay away from San Luis Potosí natives Conjunto Águila Real and their dark “Huapango El Pisteador” (aka “Sax y Tequila”), which, with a few changes in timbre, could pass for a British folk-prog instrumental from the early ’70s. Other points in its favor: the rad sections where the accordion plays lightning fast triplets over the slower sax melody, and a dramatic ending on what they call in music school the “James Bond chord.” Pick to Click!
Let me tell you what’ll happen if you do start listening to huapangos: YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO STOP. Friend, I know what I’m talking about. I write to you from the depths of that particular fucking rabbit hole, listening to someone called Kikin y Los Astros and convincing myself their “Popurri Huapangos Pa’ Zapatear” is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s certainly better than their latest romantic “sencillo” “oficial” for the Remex label, “Ni Así Regreso Contigo” (alt title/bestselling relationship guide: “¿Make-Up Saxo? ¡No, Gracias!”), although even that slow burner contains some rapid-fire syllables and mixed meter hijinks. See? Huapangos are like liquor. They remove your inhibitions and make even the lousiest music sound good. Maybe it’s time for me to give that new Arcade Fire a chance.
NorteñoBlog would be remiss if I didn’t direct you to the YouTube channel of DJ Alfonzin, puro sax curator por excelencia and creator of a playlist labeled “Huapangos, Cumbias, Norteñas Tutifruti.” Through the good DJ, I discovered Conjunto Tempestad, another San Luis Potosí group whose new, apparently Marxist album Desde La Capital has been thoughtfully uploaded in its entirety by someone other than DJ Alfonzin. To each according to his need, amirite? The upload is two hours long and doesn’t include a tracklist, so I’m not sure whether it includes the Alfonzin-endorsed quickie “Huapango el Supersonico” (you guessed it: “Saxo Supersonico”). I am sure that if you click on any of these links, there’s no turning back. Once you go huapango, the sax goes prolongado. I think Dr. Alex Comfort said that.