Credit both David Hidalgo and Taj Mahal with playing a part
in merging an eclectic array of cultural influences into today’s musical
melting pot. Integrating traditional
tunes in a contemporary context, Hidalgo’s
efforts have been both within and without the confines of Los Lobos, using the
band’s Hispanic origins as a launching point.
On last year’s Songs of Wood &
Steel, he took those traditions to a step further, teaming with L.A.’s Los
Cenzontles to help illuminate their Mexican heritage and dedication to their
native folklore. For his part, Taj Mahal
has built a career melding disparate musical idioms, incorporating Caribbean,
African, European and Americana
mores with a populist appeal.
It stands to reason then, that this current collaboration
with Los Cenzontles, Anerican Horizon,
marks another admirable attempt to fuse those disparate influences, although in
truth it leans more towards that band’s Tejano roots with Taj lending his
varied instrumental skills in support.
The lovely “Voy Caminnando” (“I Go Walking”), “Carpintero”
(“Carpenter”), “Tecolote” (“Owl”) and “La Ferza” (“The Strength”) offer charming
examples of South of the Border serenades, sung in Spanish via some seamless
harmonies. Interspersed throughout, Taj provides
some of his trademark blues, meshing in the mix with the swampy “Suenos”
“Dreams”), the signature sound of “One Hot Mama” (“Una Mamacita Sexy”), and the
tropical spirit of “Solo Quiero Bailar” (“I Only Want to Dance”).
While the novice may find this an unlikely cultural
encounter, the overwhelming impression reflects the sound realized by a fluid
musical collective. Wrapped in a theme
that pays homage to the lure of the American dream, this harmonious effort
transcends any specific divide and offers an appeal that’s universal.
Tracks: “Voy Caminnando,” “Solo Quiero Bailar” LEE ZIMMERMAN