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Who Played It Better: Ariel Camacho or These Dudes?

pathetica

First, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: a crap recording of Roberto Tapia’s new banda single “No Valoraste.” It’s trad and jubilant. You’re welcome.

But now it’s time for a new, probably never-to-recur NorteñoBlog feature called “Who Played It Better: Ariel Camacho or These Dudes?” Ariel Camacho, you’ll remember, has been a favorite of the blog ever since I heard his excellent El Karma album at the beginning of the year. He played the requinto guitar — tuned higher than normal, prone to virtuoso displays — and led a band, Los Plebes del Rancho, that also included a rhythm guitar and a tuba. Omar Burgos’s tuba managed to function as bass, percussion, and lead instrument all at once. Then in February Camacho died in a car accident at the way-too-young age of 22. Tributes followed, and outpourings of grief, and — this is where our new feature comes in — bitings of his post-Sierreño style.

So I ask you, loyal NorteñoBlog reader: WHO PLAYED IT BETTER?

Continue reading “Who Played It Better: Ariel Camacho or These Dudes?”

¡Nuevo! (starring Larry Hernández, Pesado, y más)

Larrymania

larry hernandezHere at NorteñoBlog we’ve not yet explored the career of Larry Hernández, corridista and family man, creator of both controversial Youtube smashes and a reality show called Larrymania. He’s out with a new album today, 16 Narco Corridos: Vol. 2 (Fonovisa), whose psychedelic purple cover — complete with frolicking spiders and ungulates! — suggests a lyrical move from production to consumption. No idea whether that’s true, since none of the songs seem to have found their way onto the internet yet. (Though I’m probably wrong about that, since Hernández knows his way around the internet better than I do.) Instead we have the sweet if stalkery “Vete Acostumbrando”, in which Hernández promises to show up outside your window at midnight with a banda, looking for your silhouette on the shade. Nice of him to provide warning.

Vol. 2 is the sequel to 2009’s 16 Narco Corridos, for a time Hernández’s biggest selling album and spawner of the hit “El Baleado.” Hernández got the same rap as Movimiento Alterado: that he glorified violence by singing explicitly about the violent murders surrounding Mexican drug cartels. According to Billboard‘s Leila Cobo, Hernández saw it differently:

Hernandez says he in no way seeks to glorify that way of life. While some of the appeal may lie simply in its shock value, composer/singer Hernandez says he sings about what he knows. “I lived violence as a child,” says Hernandez, who’s also an avid reader of books about drug cartels and the drug trade. “I was born in Los Angeles but was raised in Mexico, and as a boy, I saw how this person or the other was killed. They are my experiences.”

But while this may be the reality in Mexico, it isn’t the same in the United States. This fact, producer Adolfo Valenzuela says, makes the songs harmless- and appealing- in the United States. “Here, it would be almost impossible for [young people] to go around toting guns,” says Valenzuela, whose company, Twiins Enterprises, has signed several new acts like El Kommander. “I think they merely see it as something forbidden and cool. They see it as a new trend.”

Sometimes I wonder whether Adolfo Valenzuela inspired the character of Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games.

pesadoIn the past we’ve been annoyed by the superabundance of Pesado’s live albums, but we’ve also appreciated their acumen for soaring melodies and male video models. Their new album Abrázame (Disa) may or may not be out today, or possibly sometime in May, but there’s no question it opens with their VALE LA PENA single “Que Aún Te Amo,” and it’s quite likely that lovelorn singer Mario Alberto Zapato could use a hug.

capitanes de ojinagaThe border city of Ojinaga, Chihuahua, has a dual musical personality. In the ’80s it was home to man myth legend Pablo Acosta, El Zorro de Ojinaga, one of those storied drug traffickers who gave back to the community before getting offed by los federales. As such, Ojinaga and El Zorro himself will live forever in the form of corridos, including one by Los Tigres. But Ojinaga is also the musical home to a slew of peppy saxophone dance bands, including Conjunto Primavera and Los Rieleros, giving rise to the “puro Chihuahua sax” sound. Two such bands have new music out: La Fiera de Ojinaga just released the single “Como Una Fiera” (Azteca), and Capitanes de Ojinaga have the album Volando Hacia Ti (Goma) with its solid romantic lope “Cuando Quieras Llorar.” Capitanes’ singer even sounds a little like Primavera’s Tony Meléndez, one of the higher compliments NorteñoBlog can pay.

triny y la leyendaThe Go Tejano Day protesters had a point — their music has suffered neglect in recent years — but what about those poor fans of tierra caliente? Man, nobody’s even talking about that stuff any more! NorteñoBlog would seek to right this wrong, but I actually don’t like tierra caliente, since it always just seemed like duranguense for supper clubs or church socials. Here to prove me wrong are genre stalwarts Triny y La Leyenda with Me Voy a Ir (Discos Arpeggio). Triny’s single “Tu Desastre” could be worse — the accordionist is spitting out some wicked fills in the background — but I fear it won’t change hearts and minds. Neither will the latest hits compilation by supertwee Tierra Cali, La Historia… Mis Éxitos (Universal).

rocio quirozYou would perhaps like some cumbias? Argentina’s Rocio Quiroz has a new album, Vivir Soñando (Ser Música), thoughtfully uploaded to Youtube by some scofflaw. This seems really good, especially its Pick to Click single “La De La Paloma”, a minor key stomp with its drums slightly off-kilter in that delicious cumbia manner. The guitar tone is like something out of ’80s new wave, and Quiroz sounds great spitting out heartache.

Grupo Maximo GradoLike many corridistas before them, Grupo Máximo Grado think they are Iván Archibaldo Guzmán Salazar, and they sing as much on their latest album and single, Yo Soy Ivan (Sol/Hyphy). See also Gerardo Ortiz’s “Archivaldo,” where Banda El Recodo and Los Tucanes show up at Ivan Archivaldo’s party. Máximo Grado’s Ivan has hot licks and a good tune that climbs its way into the upper register (akin to how Ivan’s dad climbed his way into the upper ranks of the Sinaloa Cartel, hmmmm?), but little in the way of uncanny lyrical detail. Corridistas take note: you should always namedrop who plays your icons’ parties, because it gives me more to write about.

bisnietosI know nothing about Los BisNietos except each one is un Hombre De Rancho (Luz), although their singing comes more from the school of clean norteño vocals, reminiscent of Glenn Medeiros. (As opposed to Marco Flores’s more extreme norteño vocals, reminiscent of a rooster.) The single “Me Creo” has some wicked accordion, fitting for a song in which Los BisNietos cast themselves as villains… OF THE HEART. Their sideburns are their rapiers.

¡Nuevo! (starring Javier Rosas y más)

JAVIER ROSAS Y SU ARTILLERIA PESADA

[Updated to correct some discographical confusion.]

javier rosasSometimes it’s nice to hear pretty songs, or a variety of songs. But sometimes you just want an album to knock you flat for a half hour, and this seems to be Fonovisa’s goal with their new and unrelenting compilation reissue of Javier Rosas y Su Artillería Pesada‘s early-career highlight, Otro Golpe, featuring a flashier cover photo and a couple additional songs. Rosas and his rocking bass + tuba quintet released three (I think) albums on independent labels before their breakthrough hit “La China” led to a 2014 major label debut. (Because it wouldn’t be norteño music without confusing discographies, one of those indie albums was also titled Otro Golpe.) The singer-songwriter looks a little like Jonathan Rhys Meyers with his penetrating gaze, and he sings with blunt exuberance, as though spewing truths nobody else allows themselves. He enjoys spoken asides, too, which furthers the impression that he’s singing the collective unfiltered id. (Today’s gringo country comparison: Toby Keith.) Otro Golpe cherrypicks features some excellent math-oriented corridos like Pick to Click “Por Clave Llevo El 13,” “Soy El 4,” and “El 3-1.” I need to listen on better speakers, but I’ll go out on a limb and give this comp NEWLY REISSUED 2013 ALBUM a big VALE LA PENA.

invasionRosas also appears on Fonovisa’s new compilation Invasión del Corrido 2015: Sold Out, the third comp (at least) to feature Calibre 50’s “Javier El De Los Llanos.” Fonovisa repackages their songs as brazenly as Cook’s Illustrated recycles their recipes — not that I’m ready to abandon either friendly corporation.

los originales albumThe Hyphy label is also friendly — I know because I’ve talked with the owner (thinkpiece forthcoming!) — and it has two recent albums out: Chuy Vega’s Mas Underground y Mas Maldito: Puros Corridos and Los Originales’ Corridos de Poca M… (Ellipsis theirs.) Without running them through the translator, I’m gonna say both albums feature corridos, those traditional Mexican story-songs that often fixate on heroic tales of the drug trade. Listening while cleaning, Chuy Vega sounded slow and Los Originales sounded fast; do with that what you will. I will caution that neither album has anything to do with hyphy rap or hyphy norteño. (See thinkpiece, forthcoming.)

los chacalesAs we’ve discussed, the Goma label loves spreading the joy of puro Zacatecas saxophone to the world. Real “Up With People” types. To that end, they’ve released the latest dance album from Los Chacales de Pepe Tovar, Llego el Chacal, from Zacatecas by way of Wichita, Kansas. Lead song “Entre Fuegos Cruzados” is a spritely frolic.

los grandesLos Grandes Del Desierto are shrouded in sandy mystery, but they also have a sax and a new album, Reflexión (JB). Based on their album cover, the desierto in question belongs to Titan, the sandworm-infested (and poorly Photoshopped) Saturnine moon from Beetlejuice.

tierra caliRemember back in 2006-07, when tierra caliente music briefly became a thing? Like duranguense, tierra caliente had synths playing banda parts, only with less frenetic tambora NRG. The band Tierra Cali, hailed by Billboard‘s Leila Cobo as standing “at the helm of this new wave,” recently released the very twee Enamorado de Ti (Los Creadores del Sacadito)(Ciudad). As you see from the album’s subtitle, at some point in their career Tierra Cali created a dance step, the Sacadito. I haven’t figured out the dance yet, but this live video, featuring the band looking and sounding markedly less twee, might help.

nancyhernandezladamabravIn singles, Nancy Hernandez, “La Dama Brava,” has a likable/annoying little song called “Mi Nuevo Cellular” (Starss). Basically it’s a single melodic phrase repeated over — and over — two chords and a ringing phone, but tuba and accordion are busy and Hernandez has the beginnings of a musical personality.

luis vegaMore accomplished but also more generic are Banda Pequeños Vendaval’s “Quiero Que Te Largues!” (Mayra) and Luis Vega’s “La Chica Nice” (Pegasus), two cheerful banda tunes. Vega’s better and faster, so if your clicks are limited click on his.

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