Words by Chris Moss
It’s not just maracas and melodrama
Mariachi music is a litmus test of inner joy; people who don’t like it probably don’t like beer, sex or chocolate either. That said, it’s a style of music that doesn’t necessarily travel from the steamy Mexican backstreets to other settings all that well. Like ponchos and panpipes, it can lose something en route.
The LA-based sextet, Mariachi los Camperos de Nati Cano, displays the full palette of mariachi music, from the manic to the melancholy to the melodramatic, but with the savvy to explore an exciting and eclectic repertoire. The music ranges widely and includes landmark numbers, such as José Alfredo Jiménez’s ‘Yo’, movie soundtracks, regional variations, military music and mariachi’s enduring romantic traditions. The musicians and vocalists all breathe extraordinary energy into the sound and shape of the songs, with Sergio Alonso’s harp adding a special touch of enchantment. It’s unusual for mariachi, with its infectious upswing, to create space for rumination and to display so many nuances, but that’s what it does here, helped along the way by a shimmering brass section. At less than 40 minutes, this album is a brief but life-enhancing blast.