I first heard members of Mexican-Californian group Los Cenzontles when they performed with The Chieftains at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in 2009. Vocalists and musicians in colorful Mexican folk costumes crowded onto a stage already packed by the headliners and blended their own traditional songs into the celtic set. The Chieftains have long found inspiration in connecting with other roots traditions, and they’d just wrapped up recording with Los Cenzontles and Ry Cooder for their album San Patricio (Hear Music).
Los Cenzontles’ latest release, on their own label, also includes a guest appearance by Cooder and by Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo. This time, the eight-piece folk band sticks closer to their own musical turf, with just a touch of rock ’n’ roll added, and they tackle some pertinent social issues. The opening song, for example, “Estado de Verguenza” (“State of Shame”), has a festive, uptempo feel, but the lyrics address Arizona’s recently passed immigration law. In general, the music on Raza de Oro (Golden People) features wonderful, rhythmic acoustic guitar work, fluid fiddle playing and a nice variety of vocal sounds, as many of the members are singers. For fans of Mexican folk, this group has captured some spirited performances, and they’re even more dynamic live.
Producers: Eugene Rodriguez, Ry Cooder. Recording engineers: Hugo Arroyo and Martin Pradler, David Bartle. Studios: LOMAC Studios (San Pablo, Calif.), WireLand Studio, Sound Matrix Studios (Fountain Valley, Calif.). Mixing: Greg Morgenstein/Enormous Studios (Los Angeles). Mastering: Kenneth Lee (Oakland, Calif.).