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Del Rey crafts a soothing set of lullabies


Citizen Music Write

Now and then you run across a CD that accomplishes what it sets out to do so beautifully that you can’t fail to be impressed. Maria Del Rey’s ”Lullabies of Latin America/Canciones de Cuna de Latinoamerica” (Music For Little People 75685) is one such gift. If there are small children in your house, here is something lovely and nurturing to feed their sleepy little heads.

Blessed with a pure, vibratoless soprano, Del Rey, her musical friends and a couple of kids present both Spanish and English versions of 14 restful and beautiful melodies, the texts (and sometimes melodies) of which come from poets (and composers) who hail from Argentina, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba. The verbal imagery is as lush and playful as the musical accompaniment of Spanish guitars, strings, woodwinds and voice is soothing and respectful of Latin American traditions.

Among the highlights are Puerto Rican poet Carmelina Vizcarrando’s ”Angel De La Guarda/Guardian Angel,” Spanish poet Adriano Del Valle’s ”Elefante/Elephant” and the sadly moving ”Nana De Sevilla,” presumably the creation of Del Rey herself.

Buckley’s Grade: A

In his first solo effort, Los Lobos guitarist/singer/songwriter Cesar Rosas revisits the fertile roots mix that has made his group one of the most versatile rock bands in America today. And while the results are mixed, the successful tracks are impressive.

Titled ”Soul Disguise” (Ryko 10459), the 12-track CD is a gumbo of musical flavors, from straight traditional norteño two-steps with Texas Tornados/Los Super Seven accordionist Flaco Jimenez (”Angelito,” ”Adios Mi Vida”) to bluesy rippers and sultry tunes (”You’ve Got To Lose,” ”Tough To Handle,” ”Soul Disguise,” ”Treat Me Right”), funky R&B (”Shack and Shambles”), raucous rockers (”Racing the Moon”) and folky/smoky ballads (”Better Way”).

Such well-known sidemen as drummers Victor Bisetti and Aaron Ballesteros, saxophonists Jimmy Roberts and Jack Freeman, Hammond organ wizard Eddie Baytos, and harmonica player Lynwood Slim round out the rich, stylistically-astute sound. Rosas wrote five tunes outright, penned another five with Asleep at the Wheel’s Leroy Preston and recorded one cover apiece in Spanish and English.

Like his work with Los Lobos, Rosas’ songs hold up over time and serve as the perfect cruising tunes for this stretch of la frontera.

Buckley’s grade: B

In the history of norteño music, the dueto of Jesus Maya and Timoteo Cantú holds a seminal place in history. The Texas border pair’s mid- to late-1940s Ideal recordings, lovingly restored and reissued with surprising fidelity on ”Maya y Cantu: El Primero Conjunto Norteno Famoso, 1946-1949” (Arhoolie 9013), may well have been the discs that defined the instrumental and vocal configuration for the style in the same way that Mexican radio made the trumpet a staple instrument in the mariachi world.

As much as their vocal harmonies, the appealing combination of Maya’s bajo sexto (a 12-string guitar used as a rhythm and accompaniment instrument in the genre) and Cantu’s lively and florid button accordion work became the standard against which such equally important norteño contenders as Los Allegres de Teran and Cavazos y Ortiz had to compete.

The group was short-lived as Maya and his brother, Carmelo, teamed up to form the dueto Los Hermanos Maya. But as these 15 sides reveal, there is a suave artistry to this pairing of accomplished instrumentalists and singers that is enduring. This is a must for serious norteñno fans and lovers of great music making alike.

Buckley’s grade: A

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