Simón Díaz - Mis Canciones : My Songs
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Simón Díaz
Mis Canciones / My Songs
World Village (

cd cover With apologies to the Godfather of Soul, Simón Díaz may truly be the hardest-working man in show business. A ubiquitous presence in the Venezuelan entertainment world for over half a century, this comedian, actor, radio personality and children's show host is also a highly productive musician, with over 70 recordings under his belt. Yet apart from sampling in the occasional world-music compilation, Díaz remains largely unknown outside the region, although he is the composer of "Caballo Viejo," a.k.a. "Bamboleo," the Gypsy King's international hit.
Mis Canciones / My Songs seeks to remedy this situation, presenting fresh recordings of fifteen of his most well known songs. Díaz's music draws heavily from tonada llanera, the syncopated, harp and cuatro-driven rural music of the Venezuelan plains that bears a passing resemblance to Mexican son. Díaz maintains a surprisingly youthful voice for someone who was 76 years old at the time these recordings were made, and the uncluttered arrangements focus the listener's attention on his clear tenor. One of the unique aspects of this musical genre is the liberal use of whistling over the instrumental passages and Díaz maintains a clean, expressive tone throughout. As befits the style, much of Díaz's lyrics draw heavily from rural themes and images, particularly the natural world and the hardscrabble life of cattle herders. Although some of the lyrics veer close to being self-consciously folkloric, many carry a poignancy that the overly literal English translations fail to capture. Although well-executed throughout, the collection, perhaps necessarily, excludes some important material such as his haunting "Tonada del Cabastrero." And for the first U.S. release by this major Venezuelan star, one wishes it had included some of the original recordings for which Díaz is known at home. However, these are minor quibbles for a CD as fresh and graceful as this one. - Michael Duke

CD available from cdRoots

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